The Great Violinist Endre Wolf: The Complete Tono Recordings, 1947-1951 = Works of MOZART, BEETHOVEN, TCHAIKOVSKY, BRUCH, BARTOK, Etc. – Danacord (2 CDs)

by | Jul 31, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

The Great Violinist Endre Wolf: The Complete Tono Recordings, 1947-1951 = AULIN: Humoreske; BACH: Sarabande from Partita No. 2 in D Minor; BARTOK: Hungarian Folk-Tunes (arr. Szigeti); BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24 “Spring”; Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”; BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26; MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 “Turkish”; PAGANINI: Caprice No. 5 (arr. Maciewski); RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Flight of the Bumble Bee; TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 – Endre Wolf, violin and cond./ Antoinette Wolf, p./ Danish State Radio Sym. Orch./ Thomas Jensen (Tchaikovsky)/ Erik Tuxen (Bruch)/ Copenhagen Ch. Orch./Endre Wolf (Mozart) – Danacord DACOCD 714/715 (2 CDs) 76:56; 79:07 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
“Elegance and sheer wizardry” provided the epithets for the appearances of violinist Endre Wolf in London at the Proms during the 1958 season. Born in Hungary in 1913, he studied at the Franz Liszt Academy with Jeno Hubay and Leo Weiner. His later work in Sweden, especially Gothenburg, provided him a passport that kept him safe in Hungary during WW II before he emigrated out of harm’s way. Wolf and pianist Annie Fischer formed a powerful duo: she, too, having been confined to Sweden (both were Jewish) during WW II. Wolf gained posts in Copenhagen and Stockholm as a professor of violin. Most welcome in Britain, Wolf found an appointment in 1954 to Professor at the Royal Northern College of Music. Endre Wolf died in 2011 at age ninety-seven.
Despite the Danacord cover data, the recordings contained in the two disc traverse the period 1947-1951, the Bach, Aulin, and Paganini pieces having been recorded in Sweden. The Copenhagen Chamber Orchestra listed in the Mozart Concerto (1949) is a pick-up ensemble created from players in The Royal Orchestra and The State Radio Orchestra. The Tchaikovsky Concerto (1949) with Thomas Jensen (1898-1963) opens the set in a typical, cut edition; it still permits Wolf to highlight his silken Stradivarius, played with precision and artful taste, particularly in the second movement Canzonetta. For a moment, Wolf’s desire to include some of Tchaikovsky’s redundancies in the last movement made me think that the Allegro vivacissimo would remain intact, but no, Jensen takes a hefty cut to the coda. Still, the reading, despite some remaining swish in the acetates, captures our fancies and desire for Russian energy, and warrants re-hearing.
The Mozart “Turkish” Concerto (1949) maintains a demure salon scale, but the individual work in the strings and French horn moves blithely and without mannerism. Wolf’s approach proves intimately vivacious; one might venture “galant” as the appropriate epithet. Wolf’s runs and explosive sforzati flow effortlessly, consistently ingratiating. The cadenza, Joachim’s, fluent and persuasive, testifies to a technical mastery that conceals its fine art. A leisurely Adagio plays for the Mozart melodic magic, pregnant pauses marking off the periods in the rounded phrases. Again, subtlety and nuanced inflection mark the last movement, Rondeau: Tempo di menuetto, whose colorful, janissary trio section, while rhythmically captivating, does not break the “watchmaker’s” precision endemic to Wolf’s elegant playing.
The Paganini Caprice No. 5 in A Minor (rec. 1947) has piano accompaniment, an arrangement favored by Francescatti and Heifetz as well. The multiple stops and ricocheted bow find fluent exercise by Wolf, whose descending scales end with a grand flourish. I knew nothing of Tor Aulin (1866-1914), but his ternary Humoreske (rec. 1947) has an easy panache, well suited to Wolf’s parlando and legato style, and the piano part enjoys a salon beauty of its own. The Bartok (rec. 1950) reflects Wolf’s own Hungarian/Magyar ethos, highly expressive and impassioned, as well as eminently folk-derived. The third dance suggests a gypsy flute accompanied on the cimbalom. No. 4 provides a lovely romance, the double stops’ adding to the plangent moment. Bach, the father of all invention, finds one representative moment (rec. 1947) in the Sarabande from the Unaccompanied D Minor Partita, BWV 1004.  The inward virility of the playing makes us want more, say the Chaconne. The Flight of the Bumble Bee (rec. 1950) buzzes and wobbles in its zanily aerodynamic maneuvers, a commentary on the elusiveness of beauty?
Disc 2 proffers large works, beginning with a sensitive reading of the G Minor Concerto by Bruch (rec. 1949) with Erik Tuxen (1902-1957). The deliberate pacing and the highly expressive style remind me at several points of the Bustabo/Mengelberg collaboration, especially for Wolf’s digging into the strings for added weight. As romantically as the rhetorical phrases project themselves, the speed and the directness of expression eliminate any false exaggeration (the polar opposite of Mengelberg) and rather chisel the work to classical proportions. The grand leisure of the Adagio; Andante sostenuto must be relished by connoisseurs of noble, intimately warm fiddling. Wolf’s raspy drive in the last movement, Allegro energico, more than compensates for any lack-luster sound from the acetates of the period, and Tuxen certainly urges his Danish State Radio players to share Parnassus with their esteemed soloist.
The two Beethoven violin sonatas, the “Spring” (rec. 1949) and the “Kreutzer” (rec. 1951) each reveal a studied, thoroughly comfortable musician with an innate rhythmic certitude and unerring intonation. The performances satisfy as well anything in the Milstein legacy in these works, and that is saying something. Wolf takes the opening movement repeat in the F Major, and the result opens the piece up in its breadth as well as in its bucolic charm. A rare moment in Wolf has to this wonderful Adagio molto espessivo slow movement. One of his pupils credits his “calm hands,“ and the concluding Rondo of the Op. 24 testifies to the characterization of Wolf’s serene playing. The forever-volatile “Kreutzer” does not suffer from over-refinement in Wolf’s playing; he rather relishes the ferocity and rive of the opening movement. What quite enthralls us are the exceptionally long lines into which Wolf realizes Beethoven’s periods. A taut line holds the extended Andante con variazioni as a motley string of sophisticated pearls. The Presto finale releases anything like pent-up energies in Wolf, and a wild and witty dance we have. Someone ought to consider issuing those Beethoven, Brahms, and Mendelssohn concertos by Wolf languishing in records maintained by the London Proms.
Hardly a word in the accompanying booklet about pianist Antoniette Wolf, except that she was Wolf’s first wife. She can well play the piano, and she fits Endre’s style seamlessly.
—Gary Lemco