BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”; FAURE: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Major, Op. 13 – Albert Sammons, violin/William Murdoch, piano/Edie Miller, piano (Faure)
Pristine Audio PACM 072, 56:10 [avail. in various formats from www.pristine classical.com] ****:
Producer Andrew Rose revives two important documents from the legacy of British violin virtuoso Albert Sammons (1886-1957), a fabulously gifted and fervent artist who, except for some early lessons from his father, was virtually self-taught. Sammons plays a truncated version of the Kreutzer Sonata from 1926, the shellacs of which had been badly worn but whose grooves yielded to a diamond stylus ground 20% narrower than usual to accommodate Pristine’s XR remastering process. Despite the sonic limitations, the performance proceeds at a breathless pace, often blistering with the kind of emotion Tolstoy took as his rubric for unbridled passion that leads to personal catastrophe. The expansive second movement’s theme-and-variations, however, receives a broadly lyrical treatment, attentive to the color details that make the piece a perennial miracle. Sammons at age 40 seems to have mastered a colossal arsenal of technical effects, and the sheer application of speed does nothing to daunt his articulation. That Murdoch can stay with Sammons through the knotty ventures in the last movement testifies to an equally bold and thorough musical grounding.
The 1876 Faure A Major Sonata recording dates from 1937, originally inscribed for HMV on crackly surfaces but here delivered with noble quietude. Sammons achieves a plaintive stylish passion in the darkly modal harmonies indicated by Faure, a testament to the setting sun on a way of life, a fin-de-siecle sensibility of haunted beauty. Sammons’ tone alternates from a wiry slashing sound to a lilting sweetness, often rendering Faure’s softer sentiments in the form of a berceuse. The Andante possesses a dreamy quality, the emotional heat sublimated into a fervently amorous song for the violin. Exuberance and youth mark the last two movements, a model for later composers Debussy and Ravel. Sammons takes the trio of the Scherzo quite quickly, but he manages to retain its lyrical cast. Tenderly martial in spirit, infused with a spiritual searching, the last movement asserts itself in bold strokes softened by affectionate remembrance. Pianist Miller is not always up to the task of staying with Sammons, but the pearly tone of the keyboard and the combined ardor of the effort makes this rare document the more precious.
— Gary Lemco