Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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ELGAR Violin Concerto.LPO/Boult Mono rec 28/29 Oct 1954 Kingsway Hall MENDELSSOHN  Violin Concerto LPO/Boult Stereo rec 6/8 May 1958 Kingsway Hall  BEULAH 1PD10 [73 minutes] Amazon
BLISS Violin Concerto BLISS Theme and Cadenza.  LPO/Bliss  TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto LSO/Ataulfo Argenta.   BEULAH 3PD10 [77.54] Crotchet   Amazon
  BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto  LSO/Josef Krips rec 2/4 Jan 1952 Kingsway Hall, London BRUCH Scottish Fantasy LPO/Boult. Stereo rec 6/8 May 1958 Kingsway Hall, London   BEULAH 2PD10 [69 minutes] Crotchet   Amazon



ALFREDO CAMPOLI plays the famous romantic violin concertos … and the BLISS

Concertos by Beethoven, Bliss, Bruch, Elgar, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky

Throughout this set the synergy between Decca’s famed ‘Full Frequency Range Recording’ and Campoli’s lush/plush sweet tone reaps real  riches. Campoli must have been more than satisfied with the results.

The release of these three discs (originally released separately in  1994/1995) as a set is timely and coincides with the publication  later this year (1999) of the Ashgate/Scolar biography of this artist  - the people’s violinist if ever there was one. He is still held in  warmest affection by those who experienced his violinistic voice in the concert hall. He was a success in both classical concert hall and the salon orchestral field. Perhaps many could not forgive him for that and a faintly sniffy tone occasionally rises toxically from the page of some reviews of his recordings.

The tapes were made in London’s Kingsway Hall between 1952 and 1958 and straddle the mono-stereo transition. The Tchaikovsky, Bruch and Mendelssohn are captured in stereo; the remainder in mono.


The Mendelssohn is a gem of performance with many delights. Just listen to the trembling, sweetly produced appassionato music of the first movement. This is surely the pinnacle of Campoli’s commercially recorded achievement.

In the Elgar I found Campoli apparently precise in technique without ever being desiccated. His tone is peachily ripe - obviously a hallmark trait. While Boult often is seen as somewhat buttoned and stiff-collared here, in the Elgar, he seems caught up in Campoli’s passionate ebb and flow. A lovely performance to set beside the Heifetz/Sargent (still my favourite), Haendel/Boult and the Sammons.

BLISS Violin Concerto BLISS Theme and Cadenza. TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto

Bliss wrote his concerto (1955) for Campoli and his mono recording was for long a staple of the Ace of Club’s LP catalogue (did it ever make it to Eclipse LP I wonder [No! Rendering the work completely unavailable - Len]). Bliss enjoyed working with artists in evolving his concertos (NB Solomon in the piano concerto). It is a big rangy piece and has some memorable writing. While I remain fond of the piece it has never caught fire for me and I am afraid that for all of Campoli’s patent ardour I remain to hear the watershed performance. I have never heard the BBC Radio Classics CD in which Campoli is partnered by Bliss himself. The short Bliss Theme and Cadenza (1946) is attractive and was the mate for a BBC radio drama. I wonder how much of the original music survives.

In the Tchaikovsky, Campoli prefers August Wilhelmj's edition which heard now produces (for me) a few slight surprises. Things do not go in quite the way you expect particularly in the first movement. Purists may find this objectionable. I do not see a problem. Compensating for this (if you feel that compensation is necessary) is the Hispanic temperament of Argenta adding a tartness and taut energy that I find very welcome. Campoli is in touch with the Mediterranean voice of the work. One can imagine how much Campoli enjoyed the Capriccio Italien.

BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto  BRUCH Scottish Fantasy

The Bruch Fantasy must still give place to the Heifetz recording but again Campoli’s caramelised tone delivers a refreshing perspective on this weary war-horse. Campoli’s approach in the Beethoven (and elsewhere) steers the hazardous course between sentiment and sentimentality. Very rarely does he fall onto the wrong side.

If you insist on highlights let me commend to you that Mendelssohn recording and urge you at the same time to hear (with indulgent ears) the Tchaikovsky.

It reflects real credit on Beulah that they have done such a fine job on the technical (and therefore also the artistic) side. Notes are fine - profiling artist and music.

The new card slipcase is designed to remind us of that incident where, at a Campoli concert, the London pea-souper seeped into the hall and the audience were able to make out the head, shoulders and violin of Campoli above the smog line.

The paintings on the covers of the individual discs are from the London Transport Museum. ‘Epping Forest’ by Walter Spradbury is a gloriously literal interpretation of the English countryside.

Beulah’s small catalogue is too easily overlooked. The mono Sibelius Collins discs are also reviewed this month.

This is a cherishable set (available now at just over 25 GB Pounds) and is commended to those seeking individuality in a world of hyped anonymity.


Rob Barnett



Rob Barnett

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