Albert Spalding plays BEETHOVEN = Romances, Violin Sonatas [TrackList follows] – Pristine Audio

by | Feb 8, 2015 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Albert Spalding plays BEETHOVEN = Romance No. 1 in G Major, Op. 40; Romance No. 2 in F Major, Op. 50; Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”; Violin Sonata No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 – Albert Spalding, violin/ Andre Benoist, piano (Romances)/ Jules Wolffers, piano (Op. 47)/ Erno Dohnanyi, piano (Op. 96) –  Pristine Audio PACM 096, 70:58 [avail. in various formats from] ****:

Producer and audio engineer Mark Obert-Thorn restores some elusive work from America’s first great violin virtuoso, Albert Spalding (1888-1953), including Beethoven repertory from two distinct phases of Spalding’s career, 1935 and 1952-1953.  The most obvious addition to the Spalding (and Dohnanyi) legacy, the Beethoven G Major Sonata (16 January 1953), derives from a previously unissued, live collaboration with composer-pianist Erno von Dohnanyi (1877-1960), given five months prior to the violinist’s death. Despite some loss in Spalding’s technical arsenal, his passion in this music – as well as that of his capable accompanist – invests every bar of this singularly moving account from Florida State University campus at Tallahassee. This performance delivers a demonic finale to their Poco allegretto that quite has the audience up in appreciative arms.

The 1935 Beethoven Romances feature pianist Andre Benoist (1879-1953) of the Paris Conservatory, whose recording career began, as had Spalding’s, with Edison cylinders. The two Romances project a fervent affection, given the color limits of the keyboard as opposed to the orchestra for the accompaniment. The lyric nobility of the arioso arch bequeathed each respective melodic line suggests what vocal instrumentality Spalding might have brought to the Violin Concerto.

The Kreutzer Sonata (26 May 1952) presents us no less a significant restoration: the Boston University collaboration with Jules Wolffers – a music professor at Auckland University and the University of California – delivers Beethoven’s most “dramatic” violin sonata in explosive colors. We can detect some wobble in the Spalding expressive line, by the tensile strength of the arches remains, and the cumulative impetus can become overwhelming, as fiery an “historic” rendition as the acclaimed union of Bela Bartok and Joseph Szigeti from 1940. Even beyond the “Tolstoy” passion of the first movement Presto, the Andante con variazione reveals two musicians thoroughly acclimated to sustaining an elongated musical line without its succumbing to dramatic sag. The original Allegro LP label was no bargain as I recall, its surfaces hardly better than American Decca, with “sandpaper” for surfaces. Obert-Thorn restores this performance in a sterling sonic image, as “pristine” as the label that champions these important reissues.

A heartily-recommended disc for the New Year, 2015.

—Gary Lemco


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