The Art of Arthur Grumiaux = Works of MOZART, SCHUBERT, MENDELSSOHN, BRAHMS, FRANCK, RAVEL, YSAYE, CHAUSSON, STRAVINSKY – Arthur Grumiaux/others – Andromeda (4 CDs)

by | May 26, 2014 | Classical Reissue Reviews

The Art of Arthur Grumiaux = MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major, K. 207; Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216; Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218; Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 “Turkish”; SCHUBERT: Duo Sonata in A Major, D. 574; MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64; FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major; BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; CHAUSSON: Poeme, Op. 25; RAVEL: Sonata for Violin and Piano; Tzigane; STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto in D Major; YSAYE: Solo Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 27, No. 3 “Ballade” – Arthur Grumiaux, violin/ Riccardo Castagnone, piano (Schubert)/ Hans Altmann, piano (Franck)/ Herman von Beckerath, cello (Ravel)/ Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI/ Frieder Weissmann (K. 207; Tzigane; Poeme)/ Cologne Radio-Sym. Orch./ Lorin Maazel (K. 216)/ Radio-Sym. Frankfurt/ Carlo Maria Giulini (Mendelssohn)/ Mozarteum Orch./ Bernhard Paumgartner (K. 219)/ Bavarian Radio-Symphony Orch./ Ernest Bour (Stravinsky)/ Sym. Orch. of the South German Radio/ Hans Mueller-Kray (K. 218)/ Orch. de la Suisse Romande/ Ernest Ansermet (Brahms) – Andromeda ANDRCD 9116 (4 CDs) 60:15, 71:26, 77:08, 56:00  [Distr. by Naxos] ****: 

The catholic art of Belgian violin virtuoso Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986) here finds representation from live broadcasts, 1951-1962, in which his exquisite tone and phrasing justify the continuing legend of his mastery. In the music of Mozart and the entire gamut of Gallic repertory Grumiaux had few peers. The sound value of these documents varies, and some suffer distortion and interference from unnamed, simultaneous transmissions. But when the sonic quality remains clear and strong, as in the 1922 Ravel Duo Sonata with cellist Beckerath (8 October 1953), we receive a pungent yet lyrically convincing impression of Grumiaux’s flawless sense of ensemble.  Of the several remarkable collaborations, few can compare to work with Frieder Weissmann (1893-1984) in the B-flat Major Mozart Concerto, Chausson’s hazy masterpiece Poeme, and the Ravel Tzigane, all from the same program (2 February 1962) in Turin, Italy.  Grumiaux’s sympathy for the Stravinsky Violin Concerto extended to his commercial recording on Philips with Ernest Bour, his partner once more in this version of Stravinsky. The Philips LP had included the Berg Concerto led by Igor Mrkevitch. That particular disc (No. 4) concludes with a fitting tribute to Georges Enescu from Eugene Ysaye – the former, the master who contributed to Grumiaux’s musical development as he had to that of Yehudi Menuhin – in the form of the intense and rhapsodic Ballade Sonata from Munich, 1954.

The Franck Violin Sonata, premiered by Eugene Ysaye, seems tailor-made for Grumiaux’s throaty “Rose” Guarnerius del Gesu of 1744. In his collaboration with Hans Altmann (from Munich, 1951), Grumiaux intimately wraps his technique around the melancholy introspection and brooding passion of the work, often soaring in flights of fancy that belie that tight constriction of the cyclic writing whose mood supplies the unity in restless variety Franck conceived. The usually reserved Ernest Ansermet appears in a more volatile, expansive spirit in the course of the Brahms D Major Concerto (27 January 1960) from Geneva, in which the cool classicism of Ansermet’s long lines meets the romantic ardor in Grumiaux, which from the rousing outset of his entry with the tympani, announces a dazzling ride into the Black Forest or Bad Ischl, according to one’s biographical associations. For sheer “heart” of expression, the first movement has few rivals, though I would rank those by Senofsky (with Moralt), Francescatti (with Mitropoulos), Oistrakh (with Klemperer), and Milstein (with Jochum) among the pantheon of equally powerful interpretations. By the last movement, we have been thoroughly swept along to a richly endowed gypsy rondo which assumes even more glories when we consider that Ansermet never inscribed the work commercially.

The “classical” aspect of Grumiaux’s magnificent nobility of musical line settles on the Mozart concertos, of which the D Major with Hans Mueller-Kray from Muehlacker (16 November 1951) stands out for its bristling brilliance of execution, despite sonic deficiencies. The lean contours of the Schubert A Major “Duo” Sonata (17 January 1957) from Turin receive enamored treatment from Grumiaux, ably assisted by Richard Castagone. A relatively youthful Lorin Maazel, aged twenty-eight, adds a decisive enthusiasm to the glories of the Mozart G Major Concerto from Cologne (9 May 1958), of which the wonderful Adagio warrants the price of admission. Finally, for a union of ardent spirits, we have the Mendelssohn Concerto from Frankfurt, 1960, when the Radio-Symphony had the mesmeric Carlo Maria Giulini at the helm.

For the connoisseur of elegant violin artistry, this set will satisfy the most fastidious tastes, despite any sonic limitations, for the simple reason that Grumiaux’s transcendent talent sings deeper than the outer ear.

—Gary Lemco

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