Major, Op. 61; BLOCH: Nigun from Baal Shem; SIBELIUS: Finale: Allegro
ma non tanto from Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47;
TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35: Allegro moderato
Bruno Walter conducts New York Philharmonic/John Barnett conducts
Standard Hour Symphony Orchestra (Bloch, Sibelius)/Arthur Fiedler
conducts Standard Hour Symphony Orchestra
Music&Arts CD-1160 78:50 (Distrib. Albany)****:
Born a generation after the golden age of violinists, Camilla Wicks (b.
1928) studied with her musician parents and then went on to work with
Louis Persinger, the master who influenced Menuhin, Bustabo and Ricci.
Emphazing beauty of tone, color, and projection of expression,
Persinger refined Wicks’s style, as did a brief period of study with
Henri Temianka. In her early teens Wicks was already a seasoned artist,
capable of playing the Saint-Saens B Minor Concerto and the Glazounov A
Minor with efficiency and polish. By 1942, Wicks made her lifelong
association with the Sibelius Concerto, whose recording in 1952 with
Sixten Ehrling was destined to become a classic collectors’ item. “Mr.
Ehrling was wonderful,” offered Wicks. “Some had criticized him as
being intolerant and authoritiarian, but I felt he simply would not put
up with shoddy musicianship. He knew what he wanted. The performance is
being reissued, with its pitch distortions adjusted. Ehrling was
recording the Sibelius symphonies in the hall; and in the course of the
day, the acoustic would shift, and my notes came out somewhat flat.”
In several respects, Wicks’s career began to parallel that of her
contemporary Ginette Neveu, but without the tragedy. A combination of
dash and dynamism, wedded to a fine technique and a piercing, sweet
tone made her performances quite irresistible to auditors.
The 15 February 1953 collaboration on the Beethoven Concerto with Bruno
Walter brings us a high-flown performance, often ablaze with passion
and conviction, with the Kreisler cadenza plied in a bravura
fashion. “He took the Beethoven at his own tempo, which was quite
brisk,” offered Wicks in our telephone interview. “I had imagined the
piece in just this way, so I loved it.” For the performance Wicks
projects a visceral, eloquent violin part, both impetuous and soulful.
Audience communication with the soloist is quite palpable as the
intensity mounts here and in the 1950 Standard Hour Tchaikovsky
collaboration with Fiedler and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
No less impassioned is the movement from Baal Shem, Nigun taped 28 May
1950, again with John Barnett. The declamatory, weaving incantations
and the expressive ardor of the meditation reach astonishing heights
without sacrificing the dignity of the occasion.
The Tchaikovsky movement has a taut incandescence, keeping one slightly
off balance emotionally with the dazzling fioritura of the display and
uncanny, quick finger work. Her high flute-tone can be quite
effective, even eerie, as it is in the Sibelius excerpt. No less
intriguing to collectors should be the Simax issue (PSC 1185) of live
concerts (1968, 1985) of the Walton Concerto and Brustad Fourth
Concerto, the latter with Herbert Blomstedt. I asked Wicks about
her 1946 performance of the Wieniawski D Minor Concerto with Leopold
Stokowski. “A company wanted to issue this collaboration, but I refused
to permit it. Stokowski either could not, or would not, meet my tempo
for the last movement and the result was too sloppy for my taste.”