BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; The Creatures of Prometheus–Excerpts, Op. 43 – Alfredo Campoli, violin/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/John Pritchard/Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch (Prometheus) – HDTT

by | Dec 3, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; The Creatures of Prometheus–Excerpts, Op. 43 –  Alfredo Campoli, violin/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/John Pritchard/Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch (Prometheus)

HDTT HDCD148, 63: 56 **** [Also available as 96K/24bit DVD-R – www.highdeftapetransfers.com/]:

 
Violinist Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991) remained a steady, productive artist for British Decca for many years, having made a recording of the Beethoven Concerto with Joseph Krips. This Beethoven performance derives from a HMV World Club 4-track tape, quite clean and sonically ambient. Campoli’s thin, nasal-toned Dragonetti Stradivarius (c. 1700) projects a wiry, sweet line, accurate as Big Ben. The interplay between Campoli’s first movement upward scales and the bassoon prove resonant and even more pointed against the French horn as Campoli etches the main theme. Pritchard, noted as a sensitive opera conductor–although I first heard him in a Mozart F Major Concerto with pianist Hans Henkemanns–provides a soft, flexible patina around Campoli, an intimately delicate framework for the pliant structure the two artists create. The forward motion gathers us to the (Kreisler) cadenza even before we realize it; and Campoli moves that along, too, brilliant trills and double stops notwithstanding. The G Major Larghetto sustains the subdued calm of the first movement, now even more directly lyrical. The linear propulsion of the musical line betrays no flutter, merely an uncloyed, natural grace; thence, on to the Rondo, a long-lined series of minor variants at each appearance of the violin’s ritornello, seamless executed by Campoli, Heifetz-style.

The Munch excerpts from Beethoven’s ballet derive from an RCA 2-track tape, the miking particularly sensitive to the Boston woodwinds and the upper strings. The Overture moves, after its Andante opening, with fleet dash, a light hand in the flutes and clarinet over tremolando strings quite capable of breaking out, furioso. There occurs some spectacular channel separation directly following the Eroica (originally a contredance) episode that scurries in frantic haste to the coda over a thunderous tympani. The tracks are mis-timed: the Overture (track 4, 5:04); track 5 (12:50) seems to adumbrate Offenbach‘s music for Orpheus in the Underworld; track 6 (4:57) picks up the syncopated Eroica motif, no spread between ostinato strings and bubbling woodwinds and horns. The secondary motif imitates Handel and something of the oratory of Fidelio, much in the manner that Beethoven would adopt for the Overture to the Consecration of the House. Virtuoso playing from the Munch-led orchestra throughout, making us wish for an entire Beethoven cycle from this superb ensemble.

–Gary Lemco

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