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Ricci decca 4842150
Support us financially by purchasing from

Ruggiero Ricci (violin)
Complete Decca Recordings
rec. 1950-74
ELOQUENCE 484 2150 [20 CDs: 20 hours 40 minutes]

Ruggiero Ricci recorded for Decca for a quarter of a century, from 1950 to 1974. The label has been generous in restoring his legacy in a series of twofers but here we have a 20-CD box that offers a compact repository of his recordings for the British company. There is also a smaller homage to his recordings for the American arm of the label, a 9-CD box called ‘Ruggiero Ricci: Complete Decca Recordings’ on 484 1988.

Eloquence has broken up its twofer pairings to some extent in this box so that the recordings fall under specific headings; ‘Violin and Orchestra’, ‘Solo Violin’, and ‘Violin and Piano’. So, for example, CD 1 contains the Beethoven concerto with Boult found on 480 2080 which has been coupled with the 1950 Tchaikovsky Concerto recording he made with Malcolm Sargent (the remake from 1961 is on CD 7). Both are discussed in a review of three Eloquence twofers and their appearance in this new box is in new transfers (reviews).

The second disc pairs him with Anthony Collins in the first two Paganini concertos. Collins edited the orchestral parts for the recording and if you can still find it, the concertos are housed in the 5-CD Decca Original Masters box (review) devoted to the violinist. You can obtain the concertos via a conductor-oriented direction and acquire the recent Collins box from Eloquence (review).

For the third disc Eloquence has gutted 480 2083 for the Khachaturian and Sibelius concertos and Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique and the Scherzo from Souvenir d’un lieu cher. Ricci wasn’t impressed by Fistoulari’s conducting in the finale of the Khachaturian, but he seems to have formed a more congenial bond with Øivin Fjeldstad in the Sibelius. The expected pairing of Mendelssohn-and-Bruch appears in disc 4. This is a nimble-footed response to Eloquence’s earlier decision to couple the Mendelssohn (with Jean Fournet conducting) with the Gamba-directed Bruch (review). It makes more sense, as here, to have the Bruch-Mendelssohn LSO/Gamba recordings together and not split up.

The two Prokofiev concertos occupy CD 5 and have escaped earlier review from me. They were taped with Ansermet and his Suisse Romande forces in Victoria Hall, Geneva in April 1958 and are in stereo. Ricci seems uneasy during long stretches of No.1, constantly changing colour and articulation in the first movement as if he is trying to vest it with more incident than is necessary. He is better in the finale but it’s a hit and miss reading. He strikes me as more attuned temperamentally to No.2. He sounds more confident and stylistically assured, though the tremulousness he imparts to its slow movement won’t be to all tastes and the music’s temperature here is bracing rather than warm.

CD 6 is another Geneva recording with Ansermet – Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole coupled with Sarasate and Saint-Saens miniature blockbusters with Gamba. These last were on board 480 2083 but the Lalo was in the 5-CD box – an edgy but flavoursome reading. January 1961 saw him team up again with Sargent for the Tchaikovsky-Dvořák coupling. They can be found on 480 2083 and 480 2080 respectively (review). If you were wondering what had happened to the Mendelssohn with Fournet, it’s coupled with Ricci’s third and final recording of the Tchaikovsky with the same conductor in 1974 sessions. Sargent’s conducting of the Tchaikovsky is more trenchant and galvanizing than Fournet’s (see a review in the context of Decca’s Phase 4 recordings). There are also some long excerpts from Swan Lake which, for some labels and recordings, call for a soloist. Neither concerto performance improves at all on the Gamba or Sargent-conducted ones, which are clearly superior.

There’s more Tchaikovsky in CD 9. Suites 3 in G major and the better-known ‘Mozartiana’ (Suite 4 in G major) occupy house room here, with Ansermet and his Swiss forces. Ricci appears in the finales of both works, ensuring that their theme and variations are assured of virtuosic playing. Discs 10 and 11 occupy the mid-ground of the box and rightly inaugurate a number of discs that explore a familiar Ricci specialty, solo violin repertoire. His 1950 set of the Paganini Caprices is on CD 10 and it’s interesting that Decca seems to have definitive evidence that it was recorded in Geneva in July 1950 as some previous releases have gone for 1949 and Ricci himself always maintained it was 1947 – though the Original Masters also stated it was definitely 1950 (review). One can compare and contrast this 1950 cycle, the first to be recorded authentically – Ossy Renardy’s earlier cycle was recorded with piano accompaniment – with the April 1959 cycle he remade, once again in Geneva. The stereo sound is kinder to his tone, which could sound crunchy in the 1950 mono. There’s not that much in it but apart from a few notable examples, such as No.6, he tends to be just that bit more rhythmically assertive in the remake.

CD 12 houses the solo sonatas that appear in 480 2086 – Bartók, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Hindemith. The two Bach solo works, the Sonata No.1 and the Partita No.2 are in CD 13 (review) and so too are the six Weber sonatas, Op.10 with Carlo Bussotti which begins the sonata series. In the following disc Bussotti also accompanies in the Strauss and Prokofiev Second sonata, already reviewed in the link above. If you’ve bought the 11 CD box devoted to Friedrich Gulda’s recordings of the complete Beethoven sonatas (475 6835) you will have found two Violin Sonata recordings, those of No.7 and No.10. Ricci’s chording in the opening of the Op.30 No.2 is both resinous and rather hit and miss but this lack of comfort is useful armour in the Beethoven aesthetic. Neither player was ever known for overmuch expressive generosity in the Old School style, but they make for a formidably entrenched pairing and the results are vitalising and well worth hearing.

Discs 16 and 17 should be considered together. In 1954 Ricci teamed up with his compatriot Julius Katchen to record all three Brahms violin sonatas. They were never issued and two years later the two men recorded Nos.2 and 3 for Decca, which is how we know their Brahms (Katchen of course went on famously to record the sonatas with Josef Suk the following decade). The earlier 1954 complete cycle is making its first appearance in this box. It was recorded in Ricci’s own house using two microphones – a Victor close-up and a Telefunken further away - and he functioned not only as violinist but also producer and balance engineer as well, which is quite a burden. It’s fair, however, to point out that Ricci himself preferred his own home-produced recordings to the ones Decca taped in their West Hampstead studios in London. However, the home sound is boxy and not well defined and there are signs that there were no splices or remakes – such as in the finale of the G major. Valuable though it is to hear this cycle, especially with the great Brahmsian Katchen and with the inclusion of the First Sonata, the commercial disc is the one to go for. If only they’d recorded No.1 though.

One of Ricci’s first and most prominent teachers had been Louis Persinger, who had been Menuhin’s teacher too. Persinger was a very competent pianist and accompanied his erstwhile wunderkind soloist in two LPs made in Ricci’s house in New Jersey in January and March 1954, though as the notes say they were long thought to have been recorded by Decca in London. They recorded an all-Sarasate album and fortunately the sound is more forward than in the Brahms recording, albeit the piano sound is a bit dead and the acoustic dry. This is decidedly Ricci’s metier in terms of repertoire, and the results are brilliantly incisive and characterised with immense flair. For the March 1954 session they play Paganini, and this is just as good, in similarly decent if limited mono. The playing is gloriously vibrant, a nonchalant sequence of high-octane pieces interspersed with brief moments of lyricism.

For the final disc, ‘Virtuoso Showpieces’, Ricci was back in London and this time accompanied by Ernest Lush, whom Albert Sammons considered superior to Gerald Moore as an accompanist for string players. This 1958 stereo LP gives much more of the full spectrum of Ricci’s tone quality than had the case in the limited sonics of the home-produced discs, brilliant though they were. The repertoire is also populist in outlook and varied. What doesn’t vary is the excellence of execution. There are Franco-Spanish pieces and Elgar’s La Capricieuse but the bulk are Central-Eastern European with Suk, Hubay, Smetana and Achron prominent. Ricci was never the wittiest or slyest of players and seldom an ingratiating turner of phrases but he is on top of the repertoire here and makes a dashing protagonist throughout.

Elsewhere on this site you can find other Ricci Decca recordings. There’s a single CD (review) and also a non-Decca box from Dynamic called ‘A Life for the Violin’ (review) which includes much material made for other labels or live but which does also include the 1950 Paganini Caprice recording.

The Ricci collector may well be both enticed and frustrated by this box; enticed because of the Katchen-Brahms disc but frustrated if he has a swathe of these other very well-known recordings. Notwithstanding the three different recordings of the Tchaikovsky concerto and some less successful, less essential elements of Ricci’s repertoire, the great advantage of this box is its completeness. If you have a vacant two inch gap on your shelves, this box will fit nicely.

The transfers come direct from the source material and have been well remastered. The attractive booklet, with the usual Eloquence complement of photographs and iconography, comes with a fine Tully Potter note. 

Jonathan Woolf

Contents
CD 1
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; London Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Adrian Boult
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, TH.59
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; New Symphony Orchestra / Sir Malcolm Sargent
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 26–27 January 1950 (Tchaikovsky), 18, 19, 22 January 1952 (Beethoven)

CD 2
NICCOLÒ PAGANINI (1782–1840)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 6
Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; London Symphony Orchestra / Anthony Collins
MAURICE RAVEL (1875–1937)
Tzigane – Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Ernest Ansermet
MONO RECORDINGS (Paganini) ∙ STEREO RECORDING (Ravel)
Recording Locations: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 14 February 1955 (Paganini: Concerto No. 1), 18 February 1955 (Paganini: Concerto No. 2); Victoria Hall, Geneva Switzerland, 27–28 March 1959 (Ravel)

CD 3
JEAN SIBELIUS (1865–1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Sérénade mélancolique; Scherzo (from Souvenir d’un lieu cher)
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; London Symphony Orchestra / Øivin Fjeldstad
ARAM KHACHATURIAN (1903–1978)
Violin Concerto in D minor
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; London Philharmonic Orchestra / Anatole Fistoulari
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 2–3 July 1956 (Khachaturian), 10–15 February 1958 (Sibelius, Tchaikovsky)

CD 4
FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
MAX BRUCH (1838–1920)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; London Symphony Orchestra / Piero Gamba
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 15–16 January 1957
 
CD 5
SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891–1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Ernest Ansermet
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 1–23 April 1958

CD 6
ÉDOUARD LALO (1823–1892)
Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Ernest Ansermet
PABLO DE SARASATE (1844–1908)
Carmen – Fantaisie de concert, Op. 25
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 No. 1
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921)
Havanaise, Op. 83
Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; London Symphony Orchestra / Piero Gamba
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Locations: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 27–28 March 1959 (Lalo); Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 28–29 September 1959 (Saint-Saëns, Sarasate)

CD 7
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, TH.59
ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53, B.108
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Malcolm Sargent
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 5, 6, 11 January 1961

CD 8
FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, MWV O14
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, TH.59
Swan Lake, Op. 20 (excerpts)
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra / Jean Fournet (Concertos); Anatole Fistoulari (Swan Lake)
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: AVRO Studio, Hilversum, The Netherlands, August 1974 (Concertos), 20–22 December 1972, 4–9 May and 12, 13 & 27–29 September 1973 (Swan Lake)

CD 9
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Suite No. 3 in G major, Op. 55
Suite No. 4 in G major, Op. 61 ‘Mozartiana’
Ruggiero Ricci, violin; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Ernest Ansermet
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 9–11 December 1966 (Suite No. 3), 15, 17 December 1966 (Suite No. 4)

CD 10
NICCOLÒ PAGANINI (1782–1840)
Caprices, Op. 1 (1950 Recording)
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, July 1950

CD 11
NICCOLÒ PAGANINI (1782–1840)
Caprices, Op. 1 (1959 Recording)
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 1–9 April 1959

CD 12
BÉLA BARTÓK (1881–1945)
Sonata for Solo Violin, Sz.117
IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)
Elégie for Solo Violin
SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891–1953)
Sonata in D major for Solo Violin, Op. 115
PAUL HINDEMITH (1895–1963)
Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 31 No. 1
Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 31 No. 2
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 7–9 April 1960

CD 13
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685–1750)
Sonata No. 1 in G minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1001
Partita No. 2 in D minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1004
CARL MARIA VON WEBER (1883–1945)
Six Sonates Progressives for Violin and Piano, Op. 10
Carlo Bussotti, piano
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Locations: Decca Studio 2, West Hampstead, London, UK, 22–24, 29 January 1957 (Bach); New Jersey, USA, 17 March 1954 (Weber)

CD 14
RICHARD STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op. 18
SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891–1953)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94a
Carlo Bussotti, piano
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: New Jersey, USA, 22 June 1953

CD 15
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2
Violin Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 96
Friedrich Gulda, piano
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, 24–26 February 1954

CD 16
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1883–1897)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108
Julius Katchen, piano
PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED 1954 RECORDINGS. MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: New Jersey, USA, 17 December 1954

CD 17
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1883–1897)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108
Julius Katchen, piano
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, 22–24 and 27 July 1957

CD 18
PABLO DE SARASATE (1844–1908)
8 Danzas Españolas
Caprice Basque, Op. 24
Introduction et Tarantelle, Op. 43
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20
Louis Persinger, piano
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: New Jersey, USA, January 1954

CD 19
NICCOLÒ PAGANINI (1782–1840)
Le Streghe, Op. 8 (arr. Kreisler)
Fantasia on the G string (after Rossini’s ‘Mosè in Egitto’)
Moto perpetuo, Op. 11
Introduction and Variations on ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’ for solo violin
Variations on ‘God Save the King’, Op. 9
La Campanella (arr. Kochanski)
Sonata in E minor, Op. 3 No. 6
I Palpiti, Op. 13 (arr. Kreisler)
Louis Persinger, piano
MONO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: New Jersey, USA, 17 March 1954

CD 20
HENRYK WIENIAWSKI (1835–1880)
Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16
EDWARD ELGAR (1857–1934)
La Capricieuse, Op. 17
FRANZ VON VECSEY (1893–1935)
Caprice No. 1 for Violin and Piano: Le Vent
WILLIAM KROLL (1901–1980)
Banjo and Fiddle
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN (1810–1849)
Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. posth. (Trans. Milstein)
BEDŘICH SMETANA (1824–1884)
Andantino (Z domoviny)
JOSEF SUK (1874–1935)
Burleska (Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 17 No. 4)
JOSEPH ACHRON (1886–1943)
Hebrew Melody
PABLO DE SARASATE (1844–1908)
Jota aragonesa, Op. 27
JENŐ HUBAY (1858–1937)
Der Zephir (from 6 Blumenleben for Violin and Piano, Op. 30 No. 5)
MORITZ MOSZKOWSKI (1854–1925)
Guitarre, Op. 45 No. 2 (arr. Sarasate)
ANTONIO BAZZINI (1818–1897)
La Ronde des Lutins – scherzo fantastique, Op. 25
Ernest Lush, piano
STEREO RECORDINGS
Recording Location: Decca Studio 1, West Hampstead, London, UK, 5, 7, 9 May 1958





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