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Zino Francescatti: Legendary Treasures Volume 3
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D (1878) [33:19]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Double Concerto in A minor Op.102 (1887) [31:57]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No.1 Op.26 (1868) – finale [7:14]
Londonderry Air, arr. Fritz Kreisler [4:30]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Schön Rosmarin [2:43]
Zino Francescatti (violin); Samuel Mayes (cello)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch (Tchaikovsky, Brahms)
The Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/Donald Voorhees (Kreisler, Bruch)
rec. Boston 27 July 1958 (Tchaikovsky) and 14 April 1956 (Brahms); Bell Telephone items recorded 28 April 1952
DOREMI DHR-7888 [79:50]
Experience Classicsonline

This is the third volume in Doremi’s Francescatti marque and it has a Bostonian feel, both concerto performances being recorded with that orchestra under its conductor Charles Munch.
The Tchaikovsky dates from 1958. Collectors will doubtless know the commercial Mitropoulos and Schippers recordings and possibly the live Rodzinski; others will almost certainly be around. Francescatti was an elegant, never over emotive Tchaikovsky player and his typically elegant, but not over-refined style works well on its own terms; it always did. His sophisticated tonal qualities, subtle use of portamento and rubato, endow this performance with pellucid charm and aristocracy of utterance. The first movement cadenza is especially finely dispatched and there is some warmly textured phrasing after it. Since the violin is very slightly under recorded – a marginal matter – it means that Francescatti’s raptly withdrawn and hushed playing in the Canzonetta hovers on the brink of audibility. His dynamics are exceptionally astute though and his lyrical, tightly controlled phrasing is a pleasure to hear. The Boston winds are also in typically elegant form – Francescatti must have enjoyed his forays to this most French of American orchestras - and whilst there are a few tape blips toward the end nothing spoils the command of both soloist and orchestra.
As for the performance with Samuel Mayes, the orchestra’s long time cello principal, of the Brahms Double Concerto I’m not sure whether this isn’t the same as appeared recently on West Hill Radio Archives WHRA6017 (see review). Doremi cites 14 April whilst West Hill claims 13 April. Not having the WHRA to hand I can’t be certain; were there two consecutive performances and were both recorded? Leaving that question aside this is a useful ancillary purchase for those who have the Francescatti-Fournier-Bruno Walter 1959 commercial performance. The sound in this Boston performance is rather brusque and terse. Mayes’s throaty tone is heard to advantage though his intonation occasionally wanders. The contrast in tones between the two players though is very noticeable and the ensemble is not always the most tonally congruent.  The slow movement moves well, with a good sense of unflagging direction and the finale is gruffly controlled. The performance is back announced. 
Announcements also inform the Bell Telephone trio with Voorhees. There’s the finale of the Bruch in G minor – some succulently sweet portamenti here – and a brace of Kreisler pieces. Londonderry Air is his arrangement and it’s a bit glutinously done here, but no real harm done. Schön Rosmarin is silkily spun.
Jonathan Woolf


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