Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.53 B108 (1880 rev 1882) [32:19] Maurice RAVEL(1875-1937)
Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré (1922) [2:38]
Pičce en forme de Habanera (1908) [2:35] Darius MILHAUD(1892-1974)
Saudades de Brazil: Ipanema Op.67 (1920) [2:06] Karol SZYMANOWSKI(1882-1937)
Nocturne and Tarantelle, Op.28 (1915) [10:36]
Johanna Martzy (violin)
Symphony Orchestra of RIAS, Berlin/Ferenc Fricsay
Jean Antonetti (piano)
rec. 1951, Beethoven-Saal, Hanover, except June 1953, Jesus-Christus-Kirche,
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 717 [53:45]
Johanna Martzy (1924-79) had a brief period in the international
spotlight but for various reasons — a wealthy husband, inactive
agents, and finally, rapidly, cancer — she never really attained
the kind of prestige that she deserved. You would not necessarily
realise if you came across this reissue but it contains her
very first LP recordings, made in 1951 on a Micrograde DG disc
and subsequently reissued by the company. Thus the Ravel, Milhaud,
Falla and Szymanowski represent her art at the age of 27. She
next made recordings of Beethoven Sonata Op. 30 No.3 and Mozart’s
K376 - which I hope will be forthcoming from this source. Her
first concerto recording was of the Dvorák, which is the other
work in this welcome restoration, taped in Berlin with Ferenc
Fricsay conducting the Orchestra of RIAS.
The concerto performance is a good one. In its day it was compared
critically with the first Josef Suk LP and many preferred it
for its more extrovert qualities. I certainly wouldn’t go so
far as to endorse that view, as Suk’s recordings are amongst
the best ever made of the concerto, but Martzy is certainly
more idiomatic than many central European performances of the
time. The fact that she was Hungarian may, or may not, have
something to do with that. She responds to the folkloric episodes
with enthusiasm, seconded by her compatriot on the rostrum,
Fricsay. She indulges quite a bit of rubato, but she plays the
slow movement with considerable warmth, building with lyric
intensity admirably. Indeed in places her phrasing is almost
operatic in its reach, unlike the deliberately smaller-scaled
and more intimate Suk. The finale is perhaps the most centrally
recommendable movement with its savvy sentiment and alert dance
episodes. The recording itself is rather muddy and this vests
the strings with a rather congealed tone, which is hardly ideal.
Still, Martzy’s recordings are rare because so few of them were
ever reissued on cheaper labels. Thus she remains very much
a specialist violinist and her LP recordings on the second-hand
market are often hideously, indeed prohibitively expensive.
Another reissue company has released expensive but well produced
CD and LP performances — some live, but again these are very
pricey. Japanese CD releases have been available but again these
can be a little tricky and/or expensive to track down. Yes,
a few downloads can be had, but most collectors will want an
artefact not a download.
The small pieces show her at the very outset of her career.
Her two Ravel performances are sensitively done, albeit they
are not especially Gallic in orientation. The Milhaud was a
rather unusual choice, though very much to be welcomed given
its vitality. She shows a certain affinity with Falla but her
Szymanowski is rather more interesting. It’s hard to say, from
this limited evidence, whether she would have been adept at
the composer’s First Violin Concerto but it would have been
good to have had the opportunity to find out.
In any case, Martzy’s small discography is one that deserves
re-discovery. She was one of the most assured and accomplished
violinists of her generation.
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