The Art of Campoli III = SIR ARTHUR BLISS: Violin Concerto; Theme and Cadenza for violin and orchestra; works by BAZZINI, DEBUSSY, HUBAY, HUMMEL, PAGANINI/KREISLER – Alfredo Campoli, violin / Eric Gritton, piano / London Symphony Orchestra /Sir Arthur Bliss / National Symphony Orchestra /Victor Olof
Beulah 6PD10 [www.eavb.co.uk] Performance ***** Recording ***/**:
Sir Arthur Bliss’s fine and demanding concerto for violin was commissioned in 1953 by the BBC, and it was decided early on that Campoli should be the soloist at the première. By all accounts, including Bliss’s in his autobiography, the collaboration was a very happy affair, and Bliss dedicated the concerto to Campoli. First performed in May 1955 with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent, the second performance on the following day had the baton in the composer’s hands, as it is for the recording here, made in November 1955. Like Elgar’s, this is a substantial work and a very rewarding one for players and listeners and surely deserves more performances.
The earlier Theme and Cadenza for violin and orchestra dates from 1949, a work deriving from incidental music for a radio play “Memorial Concert” written by Bliss’s wife Trudy. It’s a short piece of just over six minutes, with attention-grabbing ideas. Campoli’s command of his instrument, does the composer proud. Campoli was quite a collector of violins; during the latter part of the 1930s he earned £2000 a year, a very substantial sum (roughly $10000 in those days), so he could indulge himself. He also owned the Dragonetti Stradivarius, still with its original neck – a Stradivarius previously owned by Arthur Catterall, another great English violinist – and a Rocca from 1843 which he used a good deal.
The remainder of the disc includes recordings from shellac sources, four virtuoso pieces polished off with consummate artistry, and the Paganini/Kreisler Concerto in one movement, recorded in 1946 with Sidney Beer’s National SO under Victor Olof. Transfers are pretty straight so some surface remains, more than, for example, in Kreisler’s own recording now available, though not in the U.S., on Naxos 8.110922.
The Bliss items, though from late 1955, are in mono; Decca had been recording in stereo for well over a year, so the stereo equipment may well have been in Geneva or Paris. The recordings are very well balanced mono though, and have been remastered to sound their best so that “you will hear the original balance without any phase problems or side effects.” The sound seems to me equally good whether through one or two speakers.
The two earlier volumes in the Campoli series are also well worth acquiring. 5PD10 has Campoli’s 1952 mono account of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the LSO under Josef Krips, a somewhat tauter account than the later stereo recording for EMI with the RPO under Pritchard, now given a new lease of life by HDTT, reviewed here. The stereo 1956 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto under Ataulfo Argenta is the coupling, still sounding very fine indeed. Both were recorded in Kingsway Hall.
Beulah 4PD10 has two superb accounts: Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult, recorded in 1954, mono with superb balance, and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor with the same orchestra under the great Dutch conductor its chief conductor at the time, Eduard van Beinum. While the sound of the orchestra cannot compare with the later stereo recording above, Campoli’s playing shines through, and the performance is even more exciting due to the more intense orchestral playing.
Among Campoli’s many other recordings is a superb live recording of Moeran’s Violin Concerto (premièred by Arthur Catterall in 1943) on Divine Art 27806, deriving from a BBC broadcast in good sound from 1954. Out of print is a live stereo recording of the Bliss under the composer, a recording which may return one day on BBC Legends. Still to appear on CD are Campoli’s Decca stereo recordings of Saint-Saëns’s 3rd Violin Concerto with Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen and Wieniawski’s Legende with the LPO under Pierino Gamba from Decca Eclipse ECS 663. Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 with Royalton Kisch and the New Symphony Orchestra, a fine recording for Decca in 1951, is available as a download from Beulah.
Bliss Violin Concerto; Theme and Cadenza for Violin and Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Arthur Bliss
Paganini/Kreisler Concerto in D major in one movement
National Symphony Orchestra / Victor Olof
Hummel Rondo in E flat
Debussy La fille aux cheveux de lin
Bazzini La ronde des lutins
Hubay Zephyr Op. 30 No. 5
— Peter Joelson