Notes and Editorial Reviews
Grand Duo in A.
Fantasia in C.
Violin Sonata in a
Josef Gingold (vn);
György Sebok (pn)
PERFORMER’S DOMAIN 1065, analog (64:00) Live: Bloomington 3/3/1968
Performer’s Domain has released three readings of
some of Schubert’s most popular violin music by Josef Gingold without booklet notes, although the blurb on the jewel case’s back relates that the live performances took place while Gingold served as a professor at Indiana University. The Grand Duo and Fantasia come from the 1968, while no date appears for the Sonat(in)a in A Minor.
The engineers miked Gingold closely in the first two works and very little reverberation blurs his tonal fiber, as noticeable in the lower registers as in the middle ones. (They’ve also captured what seem like miscellaneous stage and microphone noises, which the editors haven’t camouflaged, and the left channel seems a great deal tubbier than the right one.) If an occasional string crossing sounds awkward in the first movement, that should more likely be laid at the feet of the composer rather than those of the interpreter. Whatever temporary lapses occur, however, the overall impression remains one of mastery both technical (his rapid off-the-string passages in the second movement crackle) and tonal, and of genial nuance informed by a distinctive personality. Yet, despite the strength of his individuality, Gingold never seems to interpose himself between his listeners and the music he’s performing. Walter Robert proves an alert and sympathetic supporter.
Gingold and Robert begin the Fantasia somewhat slowly, and in the ensuing fast section, Gingold experiences some more noticeable lapses, although his cocky assurance in the strutting theme bespeaks mastery. He soars in the variations’ theme; he and Robert push and pull the tempo—as they do in the subsequent variations—effectively re-creating the sense of a relaxed salon performance. If Robert seems tentative in the return of the opening section, the duo enters aggressively and even a bit stridently into the last one. With all its warts, this reading manages to command attention throughout; some allowance has to be made, in any case, for a live performance. For such vibrant communication, most listeners should be willing to pay some sort of price.
The recorded sound in the Sonata in A Minor doesn’t exhibit the disparity in channels that characterize the engineering in the first two works (a balance of the clarity and the reverberation mark György Sebok’s accompaniment in the opening of the last movement and Gingold’s hushed restatement of the theme toward the end). Gingold’s violin sounds less reedy in the sonata than in the first two works, and it’s better balanced with the piano. Overall, the duo creates an impression of glowing refinement, most affecting, perhaps, in the slow movement, in which Gingold, while never employing old-fashioned expressive devices, nevertheless manages to conjure old-fashioned expressivity.
Violin playing in the grand manner certainly hadn’t yet slipped into the past at the time of these performances, and collectors of Schubert’s works and of significant performances by first-rate violinists certainly should find the release at least interesting. Recommended enthusiastically, but because of the recorded sound, mostly to them.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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