Belgian violin virtuoso Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986) recorded the Beethoven Violin Concerto in January. 1974, the Bruch in September, 1973. Polyhymnia International has remastered these classic renditions with their original four-channel surround sound, and the results are quite spectacular. Even within the woodwind parts of the Beethoven Concerto first movement we receive a nuanced separation, the oboes and clarinets responding to the outbursts from the horns and tympani. Besides, the playing from Grumiaux is so elegantly gorgeous, especially at the development section with bassoon and tympanic accompaniment, that the disc quite sells itself. With what has been described as “a calm flamboyance,” Grumiaux negotiates the half-steps and repeated phrases in the Beethoven with rich delicacy and innate charm, and no lack of dramatic thrust. The fortes from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra loom magisterial, the five-beat pulsations literally reverberating through the walls. Grumiaux’s execution of the Kreisler cadenza astonishes in its smooth, seamless elegance, every bar and inflection prepared and inner directed. Gruimiaux’s pianissimo is a minor miracle in itself.
Davis takes the G Major Larghetto very slowly, and Grumiaux’s part plays as a tender serenade given in small, loving, incremental phrases. In four-channel surround, the musical effect of Grumiaux’s cantabile is utterly ravishing. The French horns and strings create a penumbra around the solo, and we transition with Kreisler’s short cadenza to the fullblooded Rondo-Allegro. Here, I am reminded that one of my favorite renditions of this same concerto likewise features Grumiaux, this time with Eduard van Beinum. The combination of lyrical elegance and virtuosic savvy here, too, marks every bar, with Beethoven’s dazzling variants in the solo’s entry from the ritornello. Woodwind and throbbing string pizzicati undergird the violin’s impassioned outbursts, Grumiaux’s tone nasal without becoming wiry, his phrase-lengths now extended in long, graceful lines. From a gentle, rustic gait we suddenly explode forward into the last statement of the rondo theme, full throttle – the tympani, the violin, and the orchestral tutti in perfect balance.
The Bruch Concerto, recorded in London, enjoys the same, robust pulsation as the Beethoven, here the tremolandi shimmer from several points along the sound-system spectrum. Wallber’s marcato tempo may be a mite deliberate to some tastes, but the expansive approach allows us to bask in Grumiaux’s resplendent violin tone. The top of his scale and his E are purely intoned, the musical periods rounded much like Francescatti’s Franco-Italian approach. Again, the bit of ritard Grumiaux applies adds a touch of eroticism to the proceedings, which then explode at the end of the development section. The segue to the second movement Adagio occurs some twenty bars further along than usual, at the violin’s entry into the main Adagio theme. Nice diviso strings and low horn work during Grumiaiux’s shifts of registration and upward scales. The flute and pizzicato strings come from outer space, then horns and cellos. More than once, we are reminded of this concerto’s debts to the Mendelssohn E Minor. The movement’s close literally captures Grumiaux in prayer, his plaint rising to in rapture. The finale, already marked Stringendo, permits Grumiaux’s rasping tone its due, a piercing complement to the innate sweetness of his style. Wallberg’s forte is big and excited, reminiscent of my old favorite collaboration between Francescatti and Mitropoulos. The martial elements of the movement benefit from the various entries in strings, horns, wind, and tympani, the cello line again beautifully separated in space. Swift bow strokes to the coda, Wallberg’s contribution equally superheated to propel us to a resolute conclusion.
— Gary Lemco