The Ultimate Campoli = MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor; BRUCH: Scottish Fantasy; SAINT-SAENS: Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso – with London Philharmonic Orch. / Sir Adrian Boult; London Sym. Orch. / Anatole Fistoulari – Beulah

by | Sep 27, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

The Ultimate Campoli = MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor;  BRUCH: Scottish Fantasy; SAINT-SAENS: Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso – Alfredo Campoli, violin / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Adrian Boult; London Symphony Orchestra / Anatole Fistoulari – Beulah 7PD10 [] ****:

Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991) was born in Rome; his father, Romeo, taught the violin and played at the Costanzi Theatre (now the Royal Opera House) and at La Scala, and his mother, Elvira Campoli-Celi had been an opera singer of some repute.  The family went to live in London in 1912, possibly because Elvira had an eye on a career at Covent Garden, an ambition which never came to fruit.

While Romeo played in and directed cinema orchestras and taught, Alfredo had begun to learn the violin from him and in 1923 made his very successful Wigmore Hall début.  Alfredo had a double career, playing serious music plus playing in dance bands like many of his generation, among them Hugo Rignold, Reginald Kell, William Primrose, Walter Goehr, Stanford Robinson, Jean Pougnet and Anthony Pini. Campoli’s salon career included the Trocadero, Shaftesbury Avenue and the Dorchester Hotel, prestigious posts indeed, and he had a recording contract with Edward Lewis’s Decca by the early 1930s. He continued giving concerts and doing broadcasts of serious music, a 1933 performance of the Brahms violin concerto with the Bournemouth orchestra very well received. Pre-war recordings are available on Pearl GEMM CD9151 including Vivaldi Op. 8, 1-4 from a French radio broadcast, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 with Walter Goehr.

Campoli had retained his Italian citizenship and despite his fame and fortune in the UK was on 10 October 1940 declared an enemy alien. Unlike three of the members of the Amadeus Quartet, for example, he was not sent to the Isle of Man, but remained at home and after several months was allowed to play in public, though broadcasting for the BBC was delayed further. Soon, however, he was giving concerts for both ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association, or Every Night Something Awful) – and CEMA (wartime precursor of the British Arts Council) in great numbers,  and broadcasting, his popularity undiminished with the British public – the BBC really had had nothing to fear.

After the War, and now a British citizen, Campoli’s career in classical music flourished further, assisted by his releasing a series of very well received Decca 78s and LPs, and by his more than 1000 broadcasts. The fourth volume in the Beulah series contains a couple of stereo recordings made in May 1958 in the Kingsway Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult. Using three omnidirectional microphones, Kenneth Wilkinson produced his customary warm and clear sound; recordings made in this way were filed as BN (binaural) in the Decca library and Beulah released them in this way.  [Although binaural is always just two channels…Ed.] The Mendelssohn Concerto gets a fine reading, Campoli’s tuning spot-on as always, the Bruch masterly and imposing. His “bel canto” playing is certainly on show here; Elvira was not surprised at this description of his playing – she had been involved in a production of Aida when pregnant with Alfredo.

The two Saint-Saëns items were recorded in 1953, again in the Kingsway Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra under Anatole Fistoulari whose recordings especially of ballet music are still much loved today.  These are superb performances, virtuoso and musical; the St.-Saens transfer from LP is a mite noisier and less focused than Pristine Classical’s on PASC 062.  But this is an altogether fine conclusion to Beulah’s Campoli collection.

— Peter Joelson

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