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Endre Wolf in Sweden - Studio and Private Recordings: 1944-1978 - Volume 2
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. 1949-78
Full track-listing below
DANACORD DACOCD763-768 [6 CDs: 448:00]

A few years I reviewed the first volume in this series (review) and the Brahms Concerto recording I noted in that review has subsequently been reissued (review). So it’s now time to turn to this 6-CD set, in a slipcase containing two gatefolds and outstanding extensive booklet, that documents previously unissued studio and private recordings given between 1944 and 1978.

Wolf’s Bach is valuable to hear as he left few commercial recordings of the composer’s music. His Tono 78rpm Concerto No.2 in E major is here – a rare commercial interloper - in slightly dampened sound though with an audible harpsichord continuo and sinewy bassline. A rather excessive decelerando points to the time period, 1949, but it’s a serene performance though not the equal of Simon Goldberg’s. The Concerto No.1 comes from 1961, Michael Gielen conducting, and preserves a reading of unashamed leisure and expressive breadth. Applause is included as is a wolf note that briefly interrupts his legato. The two Partitas come from the period 1973-78 and are admirably elegant, warmly textured, and though clearly tone production is predicated on older models than were currently exalted at the time – given Wolf’s pedigree that is hardly surprising – the readings are sufficiently buoyant.

The second disc concentrates on sonata performances with his colleague Hans Leygraf. Webern’s Four Pieces are notable for the layers of tonal breadth Wolf applies – very much more full-blooded than often encountered – whilst Brahms’ Op.100 receives a truly amabile reading, fully gemütlich and unhurried. Beethoven’s Op.96 sonata has a reserved warmth, never sentimentalised and with a quiet lyric expressivity. There’s a good, steady tempo taken for the finale. The Mozart K378 sonata is stylistically apt and quietly elegant. These performances date from 1967-72.

Disc three launches two heavyweight concertos. Cellist Erling Blöndal Bengtsson has been receiving increasing exposure on disc, and his relatively recent death seems not to have stopped that legacy being properly honoured. The Brahms Double (May 1959) with Stig Westerberg is well shaped, the tonal qualities of the string soloists adding to, rather than subtracting from, the success of the performance. The Beethoven Concerto, with Joachim cadenzas for the cadenza fiends out there, is directed in Gothenburg by Sergiu Commissiona. After a slightly tentative octave introduction Wolf proceeds to give a finely proportioned and technically adroit performance. The conductor brings out some interesting lower string harmonies more often submerged into the string choir texture and the wind is prominent in the balance. The slow movement is rapt and Wolf plays the cadential passage into the finale with brio. The recording quality is not hi-fi but is perfectly adequate.

Composers from Wolf’s land of birth take hold of the fourth CD. Bartók’s Sonata No.2 with Leygraf once again reveals his tactile familiarity for the native Hungarian style. Phrasing and colour is always indicative of his sure command of this repertoire. His performance of the Solo Sonata is spaciously conceived. Both the Chaconne and the Melodia are crafted on the widest scale and whilst his great phrasal skill ensures the music never quite buckles, it’s not the most gripping of performances. Kodály’s Duo, again with Bengtsson, completes this all-Hungarian disc. The recorded sound is slightly dry. Again this is a lateral kind of reading, both men giving full weight to the interweaving, often folklorically-derived lines. It’s the opposite of the kind of kinetic reading Starker gave; instead this is a richly vibrated, expressive reading, a strong melancholic vein being present.

‘Swedish Concertos’ is the title of the penultimate disc. Erland von Koch’s 1949 Concerto, heard in this 1951 performance with Sten Frykberg conducting the Swedish Radio Orchestra, is a lyrically rather beautiful work with some vividly introspective pastoral writing in the central movement. Its finale offers the soloist plenty of opportunities for fast, driving playing. This excellent piece receives an equally first-class reading here and is one of the highlights of the set. Altogether thornier is Sven-Erik Bäck’s Concerto of 1957 which was performed at the same concert that Wolf gave with Gielen in 1961 when he played the Bach. All three movements offer variations on the initial material and there is plenty of militant urgency from the percussion as well as spare, uneasy writing for the soloist in the central Lento which is the emotional vortex of the work. It is in no way ingratiating and is played with powerful commitment sufficient to arouse rather baffled applause from the audience. Hilding Rosenberg was Bäck’s teacher so his 1952 concerto offers a neat piece of musical lineage. It’s a lyrical work with interspersed urgency, as in the central section of the slow movement. Well laid-out and excellently orchestrated there’s also a fine chance for Wolf to demonstrate the music’s ruminative cadenza. Stig Westerberg again accompanies with real assurance.

The final disc celebrates Wolf’s association with Sixten Eckerberg both in his role as pianist and also conductor. Despite Wolf’s taut portamenti and the meatier vibrato he employs in the second movement there is an intractably slow-paced and devitalised performance of the Franck Violin Sonata, given in 1952. Given so many of the musical burdens are the pianist’s it’s a question of whether Eckerberg is at fault or not. It’s much more instructive to turn to the preserved concert given in Gothenburg in February 1944. Wolf was in his accustomed seat as the leader of the Gothenburg Symphony for a performance of Sibelius’s The Oceanides, heard in poor-ish sound. Things get worse in the start of the Sibelius Concerto as the soloist is inaudible for the first couple of minutes and the braying swish ensures that the orchestra is pretty much drowned out as well. Thenceforth things improve though this first part of the work is a trial even for dedicated followers of shellac. It’s a good performance – Wolf had performed the concerto before – though the sonic limitations mean that one has to strain to appreciate the many felicities in Wolf’s playing. I’d also point to the orchestra’s wind players, too, who are characterful.

Given the more modest first volume, a twofer dedicated to his Tono discs, I wasn’t expecting this level of Wolfian bounty in volume two. This lovingly collated, beautifully presented set has, however, far exceeded all expectations. Danacord does this thing very well and their salute to Wolf is worthy of great praise.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous reviews: Stephen Greenbank and Bob Stevenson

Complete track-listing
CD 1 [78:02]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita for violin unaccompanied No. 1 b minor, BWV 1002 [22:10]
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3 Stockholm, 20 March 1973.
The archive of radio recordings 5252-72/1290, tape.
Concerto No. 1, a minor for violin and orchestra, BWV 1041 [16:29]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Michael Gielen
rec. public concert, Concert Hall of Gothenburg, 15 March 1961.
The archive of radio recordings 61/C/1055:17-23, tape.
Partita for violin unaccompanied No. 3 E major, BWV 1006 [19:28]
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. public concert, Studio 2, Stockholm, 15 April 1978.
The archive of radio recordings 5452-77/1008, tape.
Concerto No. 2, E major for violin and orchestra, BWV 1042 [17:54]
The Chamber Orchestra of Copenhagen/Endre Wolf (conductor/violin)
rec. record company Tono, Odd Fellow’s Palace, Copenhagen, 15-16 September 1949. Tono X 23132-34, masters 3524-28, 78:s. Transfers Claus Byrith, Risskov.

CD 2 [72:27]
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945)
Four Pieces Op. 7 for violin and piano [5:08]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 4, Stockholm, 4 April 1972.
The archive of radio recordings 5452-72/1289, tape.
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata No. 2 A major, Op. 100 for violin and piano [20:38]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3, Stockholm, 19 May 1971.
The archive of radio recordings 5452-70/1307, tape.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 96 for violin and piano [18:18]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3, 29 November 1967.
Not preserved in the archive of radio recordings.
Aircheck by Endre Wolf, 21 March 1968, tape.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata [No. 10/26/34] B flat major K 378 (K 317 d) for violin and piano [18:14]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 4, Stockholm, 25 March 1969. The archive of radio recordings, 5452-68/1458, tape.
Endre Wolf (violin)
Hans Leygraf (piano)

CD 3 [78:00]
Johannes BRAHMS
Concerto for Violin, Violoncello and Orchestra, A minor, Op. 102 [32:28]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Stockholm/Stig Westerberg
rec. Swedish Radio in the Concert Hall of Stockholm, 20 May 1959.
The archive of radio recordings, Ma 59/12652, tape.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Concerto in D major Op. 61 for Violin and Orchestra [45:28]
Endre Wolf (violin)
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sergiu Commissiona
rec. public concert, Concert Hall of Gothenburg, 25 February 1973.
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sergiu Commissiona
rec. Sven Kruckenberg for the domestic tape archive.

CD 4 [78:54]
Belá BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Sonata for violin and piano No. 2 [21:44]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Hans Leygraf (piano)
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3, Stockholm, 8 February 1969.
The archive of radio recordings, 5252-68/1413, tape.
Sonata for violin unaccompanied [29:45]
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. Swedish Radio Studio 2, Stockholm, 27 June 1973.
The archive of radio recordings, 5452-72/1299, tape.
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Duo for violin and cello, Op. 7 [27:20]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 4, Stockholm, 3 October 1966. Not preserved in the archive of radio recordings. Aircheck by Endre Wolf, 28 May 1967, tape.
Endre Wolf (violin)
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)

CD 5 [69:18]
Erland von KOCH (1910-2009)
Triptych for violin and orchestra, Op. 43 [18:21]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Swedish Radio Orchestra/Sten Frykberg
rec. public concert in the auditorium of the Royal Academy of Music, 23 September 1951.
The archive of radio recordings L-B 15.081, acetate/tape.
Sven-Erik BÄCK (1919-1994)
Concerto per violino ed orchestra [19:12]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Michael Gielen
rec. public concert in the Concert Hall of Gothenburg, 15 March 1961.
The archive of radio recordings 61/C/1055:17-23 (9), tape.
Hilding ROSENBERG (1892-1985)
Concerto No. 2 per violino ed orchestra [31:39]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Swedish Radio Orchestra/Stig Westerberg
rec. Swedish Radio in the auditorium of the Royal Academy of Music, 9 April 1961.
The archive of radio recordings 61/M/1280, tape.

CD 6 [71:10]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Sonata A major for violin and piano [28:23]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Sixten Eckerberg (piano)
rec. radio concert in the Stenhammar Hall of Gothenburg, 6 October 1952.
Private copy/the Royal Library R 92-0300 = F 43 tape.
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Aallottaret (The Oceanides), Op. 73 [11:53]
Endre Wolf (concert master)
Concerto for violin and orchestra d minor, Op. 47 [30:47]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sixten Eckerberg
rec. Swedish Radio. The archive of radio recordings L-B+ 4.948.
Restored by Carl-Gunnar Ĺhlén from poor wartime acetates/tape.
Endre Wolf sometime during the 1950s.



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