Lola Bobesco plays = BACH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041; VITALE: Chaconne in G minor; VANHAL: Concerto in C Major for Violin, Piano and Orchestra; MOZART: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major, K. 364; Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 “Turkish”; BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 – Lola Bobesco, violin/ Jacques Genty, piano/ Giusto Cappone, viola/ South German Radio Orchestra/ Hans Mueller-Kray/ Saar Chamber Orchestra/ Karl Ristenpart – SWR Classic SWR 19067CD (3 CDs) 53:26; 59:46; 71:49 (9/13/19) [Distr. by Naxos] *****
Romanian violin virtuoso Lola Bobesco (1921-2003) seldom receives the due that she deserves, given her extraordinary talent and prestigious honors, including having placed seventh in the historic 1937 Eugene Ysaye International Competition in Brussels, in which David Oistrakh placed first, perhaps based on the (Soviet) political situation rather than upon sheer musical talent. This compilation from SWR, Stuttgart embraces performances 1957-1961, when Bobesco had entered a mature, burnished phase of her career, and her long association with pianist Jacques Genty had fused them into a duo as reliable as that of Menuhin and Kentner. Bobesco’s sterling tone first came to my attention via a Philips recording of the Vitale Chaconne with piano accompaniment; and here, from 5 July 1957, she plays the work with Mueller-Kray and orchestra, a performance that rivals my preferred version with Francescatti and De Stoutz.
Disc One opens with a resonant, romantically inclined Bach A minor Concerto with Mueller-Kray, inflected with Bobesco’s generous, broad vibrato. Her tonal warmth quite glows in the Andante, approached with a serene leisure. A vibrant simplicity marks her concluding Allegro assai, which she and Mueller-Kray drive forward with seamless aplomb. After the mesmerizing Vitale, we hear the infrequent charms of music by Bohemian composer Johann Baptist Vanhal (1739-1813), well a contemporary of Haydn and a master of no mean ability. The Concerto for Piano and Violin (12 June 1957) pairs Bobesco and ex-husband and duo partner Getty with Baroque specialist Karl Ristenpart (1900-1967). The entire performance of this high-spirited work enjoys a fertile elan and natural ease of style. The piano entry for the opening Allegro has the plastic joie we associate with Scarlatti and Galuppi. The violin has its own, distinct entry, and then the pair launch into unison scales or antiphonal episodes. The Saar flute adds to the joyous mix, and the tuttis chug at a brisk clip. The work may well, if known to young Mendelssohn, have provided the basis for his own 1823 duo concerto. The affecting Andante proffers a melodic line to be envied by any other master of the period. Genty responds first, evolving a kind of solo sonata line which Bobesco then elaborates. She then has plucked figures and trills to accompany Genty’s ornamented line. At times, the music has the airy quality of a Mozart cassation or Haydn divertimento. The occasional sojourn into minor harmonies cast a Baroque aura into the cantabile moment. The last movement Allegro simply extends the lyrical and fluent spirits, once more with Genty’s frolics with flute just prior to Bobesco’s entry. The two solo instruments may well compete for primacy of exuberant expression.
Disc Two presents all Mozart: the Sinfonia concertante (13 April 1957) has viola master Giusto Cappone in splendid harmony with Bobesco and conductor Ristenpart. If any music “drops from the sky” more miraculously than the soli entries in the Allegro maestoso movement, I challenge anyone to name it. This 1779 masterpiece likely meant to showcase Mozart’s own gifts on the viola – setting the part in D but to be raised scordatura a semitone – though the violin part enjoys its own distinction. The cadenzas for this work, in Mozart’s hand, make the piece that much more significant among his string concertos. The spontaneity and warmth of approach ensure that those who explore will return to this musical moment often. The mesmerizing Andante sets us an extended operatic aria worthy of any moment in Cosi fan tutte. The last movement Presto takes a Lombardic rhythm in 2/4 and manages to so divide the beats that triplets flow forth. Cappone and Bustabo respectively trade entries in the course of the swirling inventions of melody and texture, while Ristenpart’s canny support can seem palpable and invisible, at once. The Turkish Concerto derives from a live broadcast of 20 May 1962, once more with Mueller-Kray. The last of the “official” violin concertos of 1775, this A Major Concerto projects both chastity and nobility entirely unique. Bobesco takes her initial entry very slowly, basking in the music’s serene departure from the music of the opening tutti. The she and conductor Mueller-Kray launch into the Allegro aperto with a singing resolve that will suffuse the performance proper. Despite the lyrical eloquence of the Andante, its dedicatee Gaetano Brunetti, found the music trivial and unrewarding. Bobesco has no such qualms about the innate glories of this dreamy movement, and she and Mueller-Kray send the music aloft to the affective aether. The last movement, well noted for its contrasted personalities of a triple meter dance that suddenly breaks into a duple janissary festival of color, commands our attention to its variety of dynamic detail. The courtly minuet that opens the movement carries Bobesco forward with a galant chic, slickly plying a series of rounded gestures. The Turkish element has the pasha and his train accompanied by col legno strings and dervishly seductive variants from Bobesco’s exotic palette. The minuet returns with ingenuous naivete.
Disc three delivers two of the largest canvases, the 4 July !961 Beethoven Concerto in D and the 6 October 1960 Saint-Saens Third Concerto. Legend has it that when Hans Schmidt-Issersedt originally invited Bobesco to perform the Brahms Concerto in 1960 Berlin, she suffered a degree of stage fright. We detect no such malaise in her expansively persuasive approach to Beethoven, in which Bobesco and Mueller-Kray achieve a sonorous poise throughout, especially in the G Major Concerto in B minor Larghetto. The 6/8 Rondo has throaty verve and wit, and a particularly telling pathos in the G minor episode in which she dialogues with the bassoon. The 1880 of Camille Saint-Saens B minor Concerto provides a dramatic complement to the Beethoven, composed as it had been for Pablo de Sarasate, sporting two outer movements of somber resolve and a middle Andantino quasi allegretto that evokes a summer pastoral or barcarolle, ending with pungent, octave harmonics from Bobesco in tandem with low clarinets. The broad, uncut approach to the Concerto rivals the classic version from Nathan Milstein, with the advantage of a conductor who generates more personality into the orchestral tissue. The first movement gains a fervent intensity in winds and brass while Bobesco spins out the secondary melody in seamless triplets. A stentorian rigor opens the last movement, Molto moderato e maestoso that will highlight the Spanish flair worthy of its dedicate, Sarasate. The music becomes a kind of hymn tune at which Saint-Saens excels, the brass choir having become especially insistent. Always, Bobesco has dug deeply into her strings to project a hearty, visceral passion into works she has long cherished in a fulsome repertorty.