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Yehudi Menuhin, violin = Works of TARTINI, FRANCK, BACH, SAINT-SAENS – MeloClassic

Yehudi Menuhin = TARTINI: Violin Sonata in G Minor, Op. 10, No. 1 “Devil’s Trill”; FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major; BACH: Partita No. 3 in E Major for Solo Violin, BWV 1006; SAINT-SAENS: Havanaise in E Major, Op. 83; Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 – Yehudi Menuhin, violin/ Marcel Gazelle, piano – MeloClassic MC 2003, 77:43 [www.meloclassic.com] *****:

From Ascona’s Palestre delle Schuola, 25 August 1952, violin legend Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) performs a recital of tastefully virtuosic music with Marcel Gazelle (1907-1969). Opening with a fiery, robust performance of Tartini’s familiar “Devil’s Trill” Sonata, the veteran duo makes affectionate contact with the audience in this live broadcast from Swiss Radio, which captures Menuhin’s plaintive violin tone to good effect.

The Franck Violin Sonata in A suffers a brief intrusion from the French radio announcer for the first measures, but soon the intimate mystery of the Allegretto ben moderato spins its special veil.  The emotional contrasts of this often erotic, sanguine work Menuhin maintains, first by proffering a controlled but thoroughly impassioned Allegro, followed by a studied, evanescent Ben moderato, lyrically mesmerizing as it expands into its cyclic Recitative-Fantasia. The ingratiating canon that defines the Allegretto poco mosso proceeds with a staid delicacy and poignant nostalgia, typical of the Menuhin sound. Menuhin has not unnecessarily lingered on tempo or phraseology, having avoided mannerism and bathos in a reading of driven yet subtle conviction.

Menuhin proceeds to his eternal strong suit: the Bach E Major Partita, whose opening Preludio has become a world entity unto itself.  Virile, potent, feverishly driven, the music assumes a kind of violin version of “organ sonority,” plastic and full bodied in its moto perpetuo. Bach continues in a series of French dances, particularly the slow gigue of the Loure in 6/4. The next stately dance, the Gavotte en Rondeau, sets up a kind of poetic series of paired couplets, each ornamented with facile grace. We have Menuhin’s then moving to two Menuets in triple meter and binary form. Double-stopping has infiltrated much of the dance textures, often suggesting a larger ensemble en salon. The ensuing Bourree has Menuhin’s making into a hurdy-gurdy sound, rustically wistful. The Giga reverts to the Italian form of the dance, quickly alternating bow strokes and registration to achieve the multi-voice effect. Menuhin urges the line forward with masculine authority, vigorous, manic but rigorously staid within a fixed pulsation, brilliant.

The two Saint-Saens items enjoy their alternately exotic (Havanaise) and virtuosic (Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso) colors, long familiar to him and all lovers of bravura violin music.  Gazelle’s keyboard bears a wonderful, expressive palette, but we shall always want the full orchestra to grant justice to Saint-Saens’ exquisitely fertile imagination.  This MeloClassic disc allows us to hear the 36-year-old Menuhin in peak form. Recommended!

—Gary Lemco

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