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Ossy Renardy: The Complete Remington Recordings = PAGANINI: Caprices; FRANCK: Sonata in A Major; RAVEL: Violin Sonata No. 2 – Ossy Renardy, violin/ Eugene Helmer, piano/ Eugene List, piano – Pristine Audio

Ossy Renardy: The Complete Remington Recordings = PAGANINI: Caprices, Op. 1 (arr. F. David); FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major; RAVEL: Violin Sonata No. 2 in G Major – Ossy Renardy, violin/ Eugene Helmer, piano/ Eugene List, piano (Franck & Ravel) – Pristine Audio PACM 103 (2 CDs) TT: 1:49:22 [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:

The short-lived Austrian violinist Ossy Renardy enjoys a fine restoration in his Remington legacy.

The name of Viennese violin luminary Ossy Renardy (nee Oskar Reiss, 1920-1953) may invoke the image of a “fingerboard gymnast,” compelled to play spectacular showpieces and flamboyant repertory, but he had gleaned respect for his formidable technique and sensitive interpretations, often likened to his compatriot, Fritz Kreisler.  Renardy died in a car crash, only just having begun to reap the repute his hard work and commitment had earned. The decision to record the complete Paganini Caprices in the Ferdinand David edition, with (an anachronistic) piano accompaniment, comes as a result of Renardy’s having performed this version in 1940, and here again in 1953, for Don Gabor’s Remington label. Ruggiero Ricci would perform the pieces in their solo capacity—in 1947—but Renardy must have felt that the popular consensus would favor the “enriched” harmonization between him and Eugene Helmer. Francescatti must have agreed with the aesthetic, as had Heifetz. The young Michael Rabin, however, dared to play caprices solo. The technique revealed by Renardy in these 24 grueling exercises certainly impresses, as much for a capacity for poetry as for consummate digital skills.  Renardy handles the various challenges confronting him: wide-spaced notes requiring the musician to glide between the outside notes; a “skipping bow”; a sostenuto string in tandem with rapid trills and harmonies in another; bowing to imitate flute and horn sonority; chromatic runs, trills, and guitar-based arpeggios; and the maintenance of brilliant speed and graceful articulation at all times.

For pure musicianship sans ostentatious bravura, the two French works with pianist Eugene List provide a refreshed tonic. The Franck Sonata enjoys a patrician line, edgy perhaps in a way that sides more with Ricci than with Grumiaux, but elegant nevertheless.  The second movement Allegro achieves some daredevil pyrotechnics, while the Recitativo-Fantasia basks in concentrated mystery. The Ravel Sonata (1923-27) claims an “antagonistic” aesthetic for the two instruments, the composer convinced that the violin and piano provide surrogates for saxophone and guitar. Renardy seems to enjoy a natural affinity for the feisty piece, whose second movement, Blues: Moderato assumes a decided, cabaret earthiness. The last movement asks Renardy to play sul ponticello in the midst of whirling filigree, and he accommodates our virtuoso expectations. The restorations, from the sure hand of veteran Mark Obert-Thorn, project an immediacy of effect that assaults the ear: I think of the Caprice No. 9 in E. No. 13 in B-flat, and No. 16 in g minor as cases in point and the easy elegance of the round that defines Franck’s final movement.

Personally, I would like to see the entire Remington archives restored with same luster and care that this fine set delivers.

—Gary Lemco

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