Biddulph 80214-2 70:10 (Distrib. Albany) ****:
Fine restorations from CBS vaults feature the dazzling combination of Zino Francescatti (1902-1991) and Robert Casadesus (1899-1972) from 1950-1954, of which the Mozart (5 April 1950) finds its first incarnation, having never been issued prior. A pity such devoted Mozart players recorded only one sonata together! Both French artists played much more Bach than is commonly recognized or made generally available. The elegant A Major Sonata (October 1954) balances a chaste ardor with a romantic impulse to extend the phrases and linger over cadence landings. The Andante is remarkable for its division of canonic elements spread between the violin and the piano’s right hand, over a basso ostinato. The performance remained unissued until the French Sony (5033832) made it available, along with Casadesus’ rare rendition of the Italian Concerto from 9 May 1958. Collectors must have the finely etched Mozart Sonata, if only for the serenity Francescatti imparts to the lovely Adagio movement and the disingenuous, false recapitulation in the A-flat rondo, a theme and variations of considerable power and invention. Francescatti’s tone, as per expectation, enjoys that sweetly pungent lyricism that made his music immediately appealing.
The two Beethoven sonatas (26 December 1950) are recorded here in mono sound, to be remade in stereo by these artists in the 1960’s. The Beethoven E-flat Sonata bubbles with frothy energy. Casadesus applies the same deft, light figuration which informs his wonderful legacy of Scarlatti. Already in this relatively early Beethoven work (1798) we can hear the dark, aggressive surges of power which periodically intrude upon the classical surface. But the middle movement, Adagio con molto espessione, as played by this duo, can wring “an iron tear down Pluto’s cheek.” Francescatti keep the music fresh and vital. The 1800 A Minor Sonata proves even more stormy, a Byronic, demonized moment whose A Major Andante scherzando, piu Allegretto does little to assuage. The last movement verges on frenzy, though it ends with Francescatti’s imparting to the music a bittersweet resignation.