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Rubbra, Berkeley, Reizenstein / Max Rostal, Franz Reizenstein


Release Date: 10/12/2010 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7232   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Lennox BerkeleyFranz ReizensteinEdmund Rubbra
Performer:  Lennox BerkeleyFrederick GrinkeFranz ReizensteinMax Rostal,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



RUBBRA Violin Sonata No. 2 1,3. L BERKELEY Violin Sonatina. 1,4 Theme and Variations for Solo Violin 1,4. REIZENSTEIN Prologue, Variations and Finale. 2,5 Three Pieces for Violin and Piano 2,5 1 Frederick Grinke, Read more class="SUPER12">2 Max Rostal (vn); 3 Edmund Rubbra, 4 Lennox Berkeley, 5 Franz Reizenstein (pn) DUTTON 7232, mono (71:32)


These are creators’ recordings, as the headnote shows. All three composers were excellent pianists. Edmund Rubbra was part of a distinguished trio that for several years included Norbert Brainin. Lennox Berkeley wrote frequently for piano, though most of his performances were limited to private concerts. Franz Reizenstein became a professor of piano at the Royal Academy of Music, and played the solo part in his own Piano Concerto No. 2. There’s no evidence on this compilation of that rueful “composer-pianist” technique, where one must look through the grime of flawed playing for the outline of authoritative statement. The violinists heard here also possessed impeccable performance credentials, and were often associated with modern composers and their music. Frederick Grinke, a Canadian, was taught by Busch and Flesch, then himself taught at the RAM. He commissioned, inspired, and premiered a number of important British chamber works, including Berkeley’s Theme and Variations. Max Rostal was another Flesch pupil, a renowned teacher in Berlin, London, then Bern. His performances in particular of 20th-century compositions by the likes of Bartók, Shostakovich, and Berg were celebrated.


As for the music itself, Rubbra’s sonata of 1932 is still a relatively early and stylistically immature piece in his lengthy canon. He was attempting to come to terms with conventional sonata development at the time, though ultimately his answer would be provided by the more transformational aspects of Elizabethan consort fantasias. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the best thing in the work is its central, lyrical Lament, though in retrospect the mix of Ireland and Ravel only hints at the contrapuntal freedom and rhapsodic, monothematic expressiveness that would appear in the Symphony No. 1 three years later.


Sonatinas are traditionally teaching exercises, but Berkeley used their short length and direct expression to at least in part avoid the prolixity expected of full-scale sonatas. This 1942 Sonatina is as light and elegant as one could wish: passionate in its first movement, tender in the second, and by turns smilingly serene and dryly humorous in its third. (Rostal was asked by the composer to edit the violin part.) A measure of the success of his 1950 Theme and Variations lies in writing eight variations with no counterpoint, and almost no multiple voices or solo/ ripieno effects. It’s all down to that inexhaustible melodic profile that was one of Berkeley’s great gifts, along with the perfect fit between material and form.


Like much of Reizenstein’s early music, the 1937 Prologue, Variations and Finale borrows something of the harmonic and rhythmic profile of Hindemith, without its adventures into acerbic bitonality. The richly expressive variations of the central section are especially notable. That same year, the composer arranged the Three Pieces out of his Piano Suite, composed in 1936. Only two are performed here, the third, Lullaby, and the second, “Marcia Barbara,” in that order.


The performances are excellent, though occasional technical slips in those of Grinke, such as the conclusion to the third variation in Berkeley’s Theme and Variations, should have been corrected with further takes. He emerges as a sensitive violinist, less assertive, varied, and distinctive than Rostal—who upon the evidence of his many recordings over the years, at least, deserved an international career. The sound is dryer in the Reizenstein, all recorded in 1945, but not noticeably different, sonically speaking, from the rest, recorded over a week in May 1954. In all cases, the microphone placement slightly favors the violin, and with a reasonably dry acoustic that throws the onus for tone rightly upon the performers. Dutton has done an excellent job with this material, filtering lightly, and removing pops, scratches, rumble, and the like. The only thing they can’t deal with is the infrequent surface flaw such as occurs at 5:54 in the opening movement of Rubbra’s sonata.


Fans of Rubbra will likely want to purchase the Violin Sonata No. 2 in a competing archival version that features the celebrated Albert Sammons with Gerald Moore (Dutton 9768), though I find the composer more emotionally committed at the keyboard. That aside, these performances impress. Recommended.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. Sonatina for Violin and Piano, Op. 17 by Lennox Berkeley
Performer:  Lennox Berkeley (Piano), Frederick Grinke (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; England 
Date of Recording: 05/11/1954 
Venue:  Decca's West Hampstead Studios, Broadhur 
Length: 12 Minutes 34 Secs. 
2. Theme and Variations for Violin, Op. 33 no 1 by Lennox Berkeley
Performer:  Frederick Grinke (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; England 
Date of Recording: 05/11/1954 
Venue:  Decca's West Hampstead Studios, Broadhur 
Length: 8 Minutes 8 Secs. 
3. Prologue, Variations and Finale, for violin & piano, Op. 12 by Franz Reizenstein
Performer:  Franz Reizenstein (Piano), Max Rostal (Violin)
Written: 1937 
Date of Recording: 03/12/1945 
Venue:  Decca's West Hampstead Studios, Broadhur 
Length: 24 Minutes 12 Secs. 
4. Pieces (3) for violin & piano, Op. 7/1 by Franz Reizenstein
Performer:  Max Rostal (Violin)
Written: 1936 
Date of Recording: 07/30/1945 
Venue:  Decca's West Hampstead Studios, Broadhur 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
5. Sonata for violin & piano, No.2, Op.31 by Edmund Rubbra
Performer:  Edmund Rubbra (Piano), Frederick Grinke (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1931 
Date of Recording: 05/04/1954 
Venue:  Decca's West Hampstead Studios, Broadhur 
Length: 19 Minutes 58 Secs. 

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