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Oscar Shumsky (violin)
rec. 1947-55
BIDDULPH 85006-2 [79:01]

Biddulph continues its restoration of Oscar Shumsky’s Mozart recordings from the 1950s with this example of the Turkish Concerto, recorded for Music Appreciation Records. A sonata sequence with Leopold Mittman can be found on Biddulph 85003. The Concerto has also been reissued by Forgotten Records (review) and finds Shumsky accompanied by the label owner’s son Thomas Scherman who directs the Little Orchestra Society orchestra. Shumsky had first performed the concerto back in 1925 when he was a boy of eight and a student of Leopold Auer. His accompanists on that occasion had been Stokowski and the Philadelphians, no less.

Shumsky’s Mozart playing at the age of 38 was red blooded and expressively generous. One can hear some strong slides and boldly characterised phrasing and as I noted in that earlier review the slow movement offers the main point of departure from the recording he made decades later with Yan Pascal Tortelier for Nimbus. There’s a more romanticised sense of engagement whereas the later reading is more elegantly streamlined, more aware of then contemporary trends in performance practice, though hardly incorporating any HIP practice. It’s true that the orchestra is not always the tidiest, but it provides rhythmically buoyant accompaniment. There are a couple of clicks on the copy used and a few brief scuffs during the cadenza but they pass quickly and Biddulph’s transfer is more forward than Forgotten Records’.

The remainder of the disc is given over to a sequence of largely obbligato recordings. He accompanies both June Gardner and Lucious Metz in two arias from Robert Shaw’s 1947 RCA Victor set of Bach’s Mass in B minor. He plays beautifully in the Benedictus and rather outshines Metz’s limited tenor. He is teamed with Erna Berger in L'amero, saro costante from Il rė pastore, K208 in a lovely March 1950 recording where the pianist is George Schick, an important figure in Chicago as the Symphony’s keyboard player. Tenor James Melton recorded Rachmaninov songs for an album in August 1947, and Shumsky accompanies with pianist Carol Hollister. Of the quartet of songs the most piquant and beautifully played is probably O Cease They Singing.

Two tried and tested violin pieces follow. There’s the Swan Lake Pas de deux (Columbia Symphony directed by Joseph Levine) heard in a private 1953 recording, a rare and fortunate survival. Massenet’s Thaïs is from an Art recording from 1950 and gorgeously done. As Wayne Kiley’s fine booklet notes suggest, the final two items evoke American radio of the period. Idabelle Smith Firestone, wife of the magnate Harvey Firestone (of tyre fame), wrote Do You Recall?, a charming popular song heard here in arrangement for violin and orchestra. Shumsky was the concertmaster at the time of ‘The Voice of Firestone’ a very popular weekly NBC show. The discographical details show that this is previously unissued though a photograph of the record label is enclosed that shows it’s fully printed. The last item is Schumann’s Träumerei in an effusive arrangement by Al Goodman which allows Shumsky’s romanticist qualities full rein.

This varied and laudable release shows Shumsky as soloist, obbligatist and concertmaster-soloist. It enshrines recordings that allow one to hear him in his youthful prime, in repertoire that embraces variety, romance and allure in equal measure.

Jonathan Woolf
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No.5 in A major, K219 'Turkish' [30:11]
Little Orchestra Society/Thomas Scherman
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Mass in B minor, BWV232: Laudamus Te [5:18]: Benedictus [5:01]
June Gardner (soprano): Lucius Metz (tenor)/ RCA Victor Orchestra/Robert Shaw
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Il rė pastore, K208: L'amero, saro costante [7:05]
Erna Berger (soprano): George Schick (piano)
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Songs (6), Op.4, No.3 In the Silence of the Secret Night [2:53]: No.4 Sing not to me, beautiful maiden [3:44]
Songs (15), Op.26, No.7 To the children [3:35]: No.10 Before my Window [2:13]
James Melton (tenor): Carol Hollister (piano)
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Swan Lake, Op.20, Pas de deux (Act 2) [5:46]
Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Joseph Levine
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Thaïs: Meditation [4:35]
American Radio Transcription Orchestra/Alfonso D’Artega
Do You Recall? [3:54]
Voice of Firestone Orchestra/Howard Barlow
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Kinderszenen, Op.15 No.7 Träumerei arr. Al Goodman [4:55]
Al Goodman and his Orchestra

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