WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Virtuoso Violin Concertos / Ruggiero Ricci

Ricci / London Phil Orch / Fjeldstad
Release Date: 03/16/2010 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4802083   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean SibeliusPeter Ilyich TchaikovskyPablo de SarasateCamille Saint-Saëns,   ... 
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci
Conductor:  Oivin FjeldstadSir Malcolm SargentPiero GambaAnatole Fistoulari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Import   
This title is currently unavailable.



Notes and Editorial Reviews



VIRTUOSO VIOLIN CONCERTOS Ruggiero Ricci (vn); Øivin Fjeldstad 1,3 , Malcolm Sargent 2 , Piero Gamba 4,5 , cond; London SO; 1–5 Anatole Fistoulari, cond; 6 London PO 6 DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2083, analog (2 CDs: 152:14)


Read more class="COMPOSER12">SIBELIUS 1 Violin Concerto. TCHAIKOVSKY 2 Violin Concerto. 3 Sérénade mélancolique. 3 Souvenir d’un lieu cher: Scherzo. SARASATE 4 Zigeunerweisen. 4 Carmen Fantasy. SAINT-SAËNS 5 Havanaise. 5 Introduction and Rondo capriccioso. KHACHATURIAN 6 Violin Concerto


Ruggiero Ricci recorded all the works in his collection of Virtuoso Violin Concertos in Kingsway Hall: in July 1956, Khachaturian’s concerto; February 1958, Sibelius’s concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Scherzo and Sérénade; September 1959, Saint-Saëns’s Havanaise and Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso; and January 1961, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. John Culshaw produced the recordings included on the collection’s first disc, the works by Sibelius and Tchaikovsky.


Ricci’s recording of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto falls between Jascha Heifetz’s two (1935 and 1959) and straddles the demonic energy of the first and the icy mystery of the second. Decca’s engineers (Cyril Windebank and Gordon Parry, in this case) reproduce the sharp bite of the brass and clarity of the strings. They also project Ricci forward so as to capture the cleanness of his playing and the richness of his tone. Øivin Fjeldstad’s direction sounds taut and punchy, re-creating the dark, jagged landscape of Sibelius’s first movement. Only occasionally does Ricci slap his bow on the strings, a gesture that almost defines his musical personality. In the slow movement, his tone on the G string possesses the high tensile strength of Heifetz’s rather than lusher warmth. If in the final movement—and perhaps in the second as well—very occasional stray intonation might call attention to itself, in general the movement sounds as virtuosic as the title of the collection suggests (the final hair-raising page just about settles that) and certainly must have stood among the best and most electrifying versions of the work available at the time. (As I write, I have before me a poster that my father picked up after one of Ricci’s live performances of the Sibelius concerto, this one from January 14 and 15, 1964, but I don’t remember Ricci making so strong an impression in the work as he does here.)


Tully Potter mentions in his notes that Ricci thought Decca wanted another version of the Tchaikovsky concerto from him in 1961 (he had recorded the first in 1950 for Decca, with Malcolm Sargent and the New Symphony Orchestra, and would record a third in 1974, still again for Decca, with Jean Fournet) because it would sell. In the video Great Violinists of the Bell Telephone Hour , Michael Rabin, who played substantial chunks of the concerto so captivatingly for the 1954 movie Rhapsody , sounds washed out in the finale in comparison to Ricci’s version. In the first movement, Ricci himself doesn’t initially sound so rhapsodic as do Auer students Heifetz (any of the three versions from 1937, 1950—a less well-known personal favorite—and 1957), Nathan Milstein, and Mischa Elman, nor even so full-throated as Arthur Grumiaux in his first recording with Bogo Lescovic. Nevertheless, he plays Auer’s thirds electrifyingly in the cadenza and by the time he reaches the final pages of the first movement, he’s aglow. If Ricci’s version of the Canzonetta sounds a bit less urgent (even in the middle section) after the stormy conclusion of the first movement, the finale begins with a whirlwind. Here’s the Ricci from the video, crisp and compelling. As for Sibelius’s concerto, Decca’s engineers (here, Kenneth Wilkinson and Alan Reeve) provide an almost three-dimensional yet atmospheric setting for their soloist. The Sérénade mélancolique may not wail with Heifetz’s intensity, but it’s moving nonetheless, and Ricci plays the Scherzo with edgy energy.


Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen may be one of the most popular works ever written for the violin, and it’s perhaps a sign of our times that one prominent violinist couldn’t imagine expressing Zigeunerweisen . Ricci obviously could, and his version sounds appealingly virtuosic, even compared with Heifetz’s 1937 and 1951 recordings with orchestra. The running passagework in the first section sounds light and facile, though not perhaps matching Sarasate’s sense of fleetness (Sarasate recorded the work, in abridged form, in 1904), and if Ricci doesn’t wring melodrama from the popular Gypsy melody the middle section enshrines (in Sarasate’s recording, this section ends abruptly in midstream), he shines brightly in the finale. Tully Potter describes Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy as “ramshackle,” and it’s hard not to agree despite the wealth of attractive melody and the ingratiating writing for the violin. So if a listener is willing to take a masterly performance of the work (like Heifetz’s, like Perlman’s, and like Ricci’s) note by note, melody by melody, it can still provide a great deal of pleasure, as it does here, when Ricci digs into one barrage of double-stops after another. And nobody needs to feel bad about it the next morning.


Saint-Saëns may not have been a violinist, but the two works on Ricci’s program, supremely well written for the instrument, have become mainstays of its repertoire. Arthur Grumiaux played Havanaise as hauntingly as Heifetz did, bracingly. Ricci falls closer to Grumiaux’s end of the spectrum, though less poignant. He doesn’t bite into the 16th-note patterns that interrupt the languid melody near the beginning—or take the bow off the string during them—but he still makes an atmospheric case for the work that deserves an equal place among the very best. And he slams into the pickup note before one of the main thematic statements, stamping his signature on the performance. Heifetz made the opening of the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso crackle with static electricity and Rabin made it smolder with Iberian passion. Ricci’s version combines the strengths of both approaches. I posed this as a trick “name that violinist” challenge to my son, and he hazarded a guess: “It’s not Ricci?” Ricci indeed! And those who think of him as a brittle technician should hear these discs to acquaint themselves with his real musical personality.


The Oistrakhs—and maybe Kogan—owned Khachaturian’s concerto, but Ricci took substantial possession of it during this recording session. I’ve always admired Igor Oistrakh’s recording of the work on Angel 35100: lighter in weight than his father’s but perhaps even more heartrending in the first movement’s second theme. Ricci’s recording sounds something like the young Oistrakh’s (although Ricci takes the first movement’s main theme less percussively than he did), but his more heated manner in the slow sections may not be so attractive to some as that violinist’s cooler sophistication. In the notes, Tully Potter quotes Ricci as mentioning that he plays a mix of the elder Oistrakh’s cadenza and Khachaturian’s, adding some ideas of his own. It’s clear which ideas came from Ricci himself—the skyrocketing fireworks-like ones. It may be hard for some to adjust to this exceptionally long, even long-winded, cadenza. The slow movement doesn’t seem so garishly splashed with ethnic blotches, but some may feel that it gains in eloquence from the very slight overall adjustment in color saturation—and, as usual, Ricci throbs on the G string. Potter quotes Ricci’s recollection that Fistoulari insisted on conducting the finale in three rather than in one, as Ricci would have preferred, attributing the slower tempo to the conductor’s stubbornness. But it doesn’t seem so inordinately slow, even if Ricci doesn’t get to kick and leap in as sprightly a manner as Igor Oistrakh did. And Ricci really does generate enough heat to melt steel in the melodic sections. The recorded sound, the earliest in the collection, seems tubby after the others.


For Ricci’s aficionados, Decca’s collection of Virtuoso Violin Concertos may be the very richest treat, even lacking as it does the Paganini recordings for which he achieved notoriety. In fact, leaving them out just points up how comprehensive his grasp of the literature has been. Urgently recommended for every kind of collector and collection, but especially as a wake-up call for those who customarily denigrate Ricci’s artistry.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Oivin Fjeldstad
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1905; Finland 
2.
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
3.
Sérénade mélancolique for Violin and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 26 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Oivin Fjeldstad
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 
4.
Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42: no 2, Scherzo by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Oivin Fjeldstad
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
5.
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 by Pablo de Sarasate
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Piero Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878 
6.
Carmen Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra/Piano, Op. 25 by Pablo de Sarasate
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Piero Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1883 
7.
Havanaise for Violin and Orchestra in E major, Op. 83 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Piero Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 
8.
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 28 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Piero Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863; France 
9.
Concerto for Violin in D minor by Aram Khachaturian
Performer:  Ruggiero Ricci (Violin)
Conductor:  Anatole Fistoulari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USSR 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook




YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN TO ARKIVMUSIC STREAMING.
TRY IT NOW FOR FREE!
Sign up now for two weeks of free access to the world's best classical music collection. Keep listening for only $19.95/month - thousands of classical albums for the price of one! Learn more about ArkivMusic Streaming
Aleady a subscriber? Sign In