These two patrician French musicians were leading lights at American Columbia from the 1940s until well into the 1960s. During World War II, violinist Zino Francescatti and pianist Robert Casadesus began performing as a duo (they were both also collaborators with Ravel early in the careers), and in the decades since then the Columbia/Sony catalogue has documented this partnership distinguished by interpretive grace and technical polish. Although Francescatti is probably best remembered for his wide-ranging concerto recordings with Bernstein, Ormandy and Bruno Walter and Casadesus for his sparkling Mozart concertos with Szell, their duo recordings were also greatly admired by music lovers, especially their landmark interpretations of the Beethoven Violin Sonatas. The first of these recordings – made in mono between 1949 and 1957 in New York, when both musicians were living in the US – comprised Nos. 3–9. A remake, this time the complete cycle, was recorded in stereo in Paris in 1958 and 1961. Now Sony Classical is reissuing all of these performances in a single 7-CD box set.
All of their recordings of Beethoven violin sonatas were held in the highest critical esteem. The mono recordings earned special praise from Gramophone in the UK for expressiveness without undue romanticism and from High Fidelity in the US for an equality between the two musicians not often found in recordings of these works. Similar plaudits for the stereo versions, Gramophone commending Francescatti’s “cool, relaxed ease and sweet tone [in the “Spring” Sonata] … Casadesus is wonderfully good, too … The playing is effortless and relaxed in the true chamber music way … Both in this [Op. 96] and the C minor Sonata they give the kind of limpid, poetic classical performances in which every detail falls miraculously into place. This is playing with a lifetime of musical experience behind it … The perspective is faultlessly calculated; but of course not even the best engineer in the world could have produced such a result without a ‘marriage of true minds’ between the performers.” High Fidelity’s reviewer referred to the players’ “general tendency towards objective clarity, rhythmic brio, and superb instrumental refinement … The entire set – flawlessly well articulated, cleanly reproduced, and with every element of Beethoven’s writing meticulously set into proper perspective – can be highly recommended.”
The new box contains two performances never before issued: the duo’s 1957 New York recordings of the “Spring” Sonata and of Op. 30 No. 1, which were apparently withheld because of the imminent commencement of the cycle’s complete remake in stereo.