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Jonathan Woolf
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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 32 in B flat major K454 (1784) [21:37]
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 34 in A major K526 (1787) [19:16]
Frederick Grinke (violin)
Kendall Taylor (piano)
rec. 1953, Decca West Hampstead Studios, London

In a previous review Stephen Greenbank has pertinently highlighted the salient features of the musical life of Frederick Grinke (1911-1987). Grinke was a stalwart of the Decca studios as a soloist and chamber player. As leader of Boyd Neel’s orchestra he was entrusted with a number of important studio responsibilities, a good few being premiere recordings. In recent years some of his sonata and chamber recordings have been transferred – Ireland, Vaughan Williams and Rubbra, majorly so on Dutton. There remains much work to be done in the established core repertory.
Part of that lacuna has now been addressed by Forgotten Records which reaches forward somewhat into the early LP market, as is its usual wont. Grinke recorded Mozart’s two sonatas in 1953 with that distinguished and long-lived pianist Kendall Taylor, who was active for Decca at the time. Back in 1945 Grinke had recorded Mozart’s Turkish Concerto, K219, and the other example of his Mozartean credentials are the two Duos, where he teamed with a frequent collaborator, violist Watson Forbes. All of Forbes’s recordings, almost all for Decca, sometimes with alternative takes or unpublished sides, have been made available privately and these inevitably include the sides he made with Grinke. However, until a mainstream release restores the Concerto and the Duos we shall be missing this important facet of his stylistic armoury.
Grinke was a superior soloist and a practised chamber collaborator, as he proves with Taylor in both sonatas. Unobtrusively stylish and without mannerism he has a well-equalized scale, a nicely sweet unplush tone with well-calibrated vibrato usage. He takes care to delineate passages where the violin is subordinate, as in the opening movement of K454 and the Deccas don’t unduly spotlight him. He vests the same sonata’s slow movement with appropriately ‘pathetic’ phrasing and takes a sensible tempo in the finale. Taylor is splendid in the opening of the companion A major sonata. He gives an infectious lilt to the finale, where there is sufficient time for phrases to breathe without retarding in any way the natural momentum of the music.
The transfer has been excellently realised and allows one unfettered access to these sane and sensibly musical performances, now sixty years old.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank