The Artistry of Josef Gingold = LALO: Andante from Symphonie Espagnole; SCHUBERT: Sonatina in A Minor, Op. 137, No. 2; ARENSKY: Allegro moderato and Scherzo from Piano Trio in D Minor; BLOCH: Sonata No. 1; FRANCAIX: Sonatine for Violin and Piano; MAEKLEBERGHE: Aria; BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major; MOZART: Andante from Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364; TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade melancolique, Op. 26; YSAYE: Solo Sonata in D Minor, Op. 27, No. 3; Bonus–Radio Broadcast Interview – Josef Gingold, violin/Lisa Elman, piano (Francaix)/Beryl Rubinstein (Bloch)/August Maekelberghe, piano/Walter Robert, piano (Schubert)/Earl Wild, piano and Harvey Shapiro, cello (Arensky)/ Ohio State University Symphony Orchestra/George Hardesty/Carlton Cooley, viola – Enharmonic Records ENCD03-015, (2 CDs) 79:12; 77:59 [Distr. By Albany] ****:
The art of concertmaster extraordinaire–at Detroit and Cleveland–and pedagogue–at Indiana University–Josef Gingold (1909-1995) finds a fitting testimonial on recordings and radio transcriptions made 1941-1979. The entire set exists as a family affair: compiled by son George Gingold and engineered by grandson David Gingold, along with Kenneth Froehlich. Josef Gingold dominated the American violin-pedagogy scene, sharing top honors with colleagues Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay for having produced a stream of modern practitioners of the instrument whose level of achievement ranks world-class. Collectors will likely gravitate to this set–as they likely had to an issue from Music & Arts some 20 years ago–who do not mind the varied recorded quality from acetate and informal sources, excepting the Bloch Sonata, recorded (1938) commercially by RCA Victor.
The set opens with a passionate lyric reading of the Andante from Lalo’s popular Symphonie Espagnole (11 October 1942) with an NBC Radio orchestra, the conductor unnamed. Franz Schubert’s A Minor Sonatina (3 March 1968) shares a live spotlight with Bloomington’s Walter Robert. Sounding a mite raspier, but his scale intimate and ardently focused, Gingold gives us a model of Schubert’s salon style. Gingold’s G string could cut chrome steel and release King Kong from his chains, without the photographers’ flashbulbs. The second movement Andante particularly projects a patrician sensibility. Extended excerpts from the Arensky D Minor Trio follow, taken from an acetate broadcast radio transcription (25 May 1941), featuring the NBC Piano Trio. Earl Wild and Harvey Shapiro collaborate in an immediately gratifying performance of the opening Allegro moderato, making us recall how much both Gingold and Wild championed the melody-gifted Arensky, each in his own glorious way. Despite crispy and poppy sounds from the acetates, the glories of the piece–often a happy clone of the Tchaikovsky Trio–shine through. Unfortunately, the Scherzo’s glistening cascades suffer an intrusion by the announcer–our fine musicians had run out of air time. August Maekelberghe was a musical director of the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Detroit. He and Gingold collaborate in his Aria on a muddy-sounding acetate radio transcription, c. 1946. That the piece has a delicate charm cannot be denied; Gingold makes its four minutes sound like a Heifetz encore.
The historical collector will seek out the Josef Gingold-Beryl Rubinstein Bloch First Sonata (1920), given its exotic urgency and modal style, especially in the opening fantasia style of the Agitato. Since the performance has the benefit of a commercial incarnation, there are no extraneous distractions in the course of this gripping reading, a real piece of the music world’s transition from post-Romanticism into an idiosyncratic modernity. The second movement–Molto quieto–projects that gossamer, ecstatic, rhapsodic and declamatory element in Bloch that glows with his ethnic mysticism. If the middle movement resonates with Debussy allusions, the final Moderato’s opening, slashing lines smack of Bartok, an emphatic rush of energetic throes from Gingold over percussively wild–often pentatonic–chords from Rubinstein. The throes abate to yield to a meditative series of pages, languorous, ephemeral, haunted. The perky Francaix Sonatine (1934) recording derives from The Friends of Recorded Music 25 and features colorful work with violinist Mischa Elman’s sister, Lisa Elman. In three movements, the cosmopolitan piece boasts a suave Andante in a bluesy style close to Ravel. The last movement, a Theme varie, looks back to Faure but offers sparkling and swaggering passages for both participants.
Gingold revered the Beethoven Violin Concerto above all such works in the genre, and this live performance (17 February 1963) from Ohio State University provides some degree of proof of Gingold’s acumen here, despite some ragged passages from the student orchestra. It is worthwhile to compare Gingold’s gracefully lyric concept of the first movement with that of his fellow from the Primrose Quartet, Oscar Shumsky, who made a recording with the Curtis Institute Orchestra. Gingold’s cadenza–his own?–in the first movement conveys a colorfully flexible but restrained virtuosity. “Elegance” as an epithet perfectly describes the G Major theme and variations Larghetto. The Rondo delights in a rough-hewn, earthy character. The orchestral contribution, aside from a few forceful but distantly miked gestures, seems mostly metronomic, but the individual colors “rise to the occasion,” as annotator George Gingold puts it.
Gingold and NBC first chair violist Carlton Cooley–who recorded Harold in Italy and Don Quixote with Toscanini–perform a luxurious Andante from Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante on acetate broadcast transcription, no date given but most likely mid-1940s. The grand leisure once again suffers rude interruption at the coda from the NBC announcer, given the time constraints of radio air-time. The Tchaikovsky Serenade melancolique has had wonderful renditions from Heifetz, Elman, and Menuhin; Gingold’s throaty version (13 August 1942) on acetates lists neither conductor nor ensemble. The entire rendition evokes an elevated aria in Russian style that does not give us the last bars in octaves, as does Heifetz, but nevertheless makes for ardent Tchaikovsky. Gingold himself premiered Ysaye’s Ballade Sonata in Brussels in 1928 at the behest of the composer. The performance here (28 October 1979) has the “gimmick” of being played unisono by seven violinists–the others each a Gingold student of renown with Gingold primus inter pares–and so the ensemble occasionally becomes wayward. The result, however, still manages a kind of eerie, small chamber-music effect not so far from the Shostakovich arrangements of his late string quartet, Op. 110.
The KYW Radio interview (17 January 1957), conducted on the occasion of Arturo Toscanini’s death, has Gingold recall his seven years’ association with “the greatest recreative artist we have had in this century.” Gingold recounts the Maestro’s relentless drive, his “religion” of music, in order to reach perfection. “We served Toscanini, but we also served our great and noble Art.” A special memory involves a South American tour 4 July 1941, supposedly a day of rest, but Toscanini had called for a rehearsal. “The Maestro asked us to play The Star-Spangled Banner, and we played with such a thrill with tears in our eyes,” touched that the Maestro knew his orchestra was far from America and nostalgic for their homeland. Gingold recounts having had tea and cookies with the Maestro, especially so that Gingold’s family could enjoy Toscanini’s hospitality. Toscanini expressed his admiration for the Cleveland Orchestra’s George Szell, who had made his own American debut with the NBC Symphony.
— Gary Lemco
Mid-century performances, Eduard Erdmann, piano