Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 61 (1806) [44:33]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 (1863) [9:20]
Havanaise in E, Op. 83 (1887) [9:42]
Henryk Szeryng (violin)
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/Jacques Thibaud (Beethoven)
Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française/Edouard Lindenberg (Saint-Saëns)
rec. January 1953, Palais de Chaillot, Paris (Beethoven), October 1951, Studio Magellan, Paris (Saint-Saëns)
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1194 [63:39]
The new LP market was beginning to burgeon by the time Henryk Szeryng recorded the Beethoven Concerto with the prince of the French violin school, Jacques Thibaud on the rostrum. It was the latter’s only conducting venture on disc, so far as I’m aware, and he wasn’t long to enjoy it, dying in a plane crash later in the year. Companies big and small had released, or were soon to release, their own versions to supersede the classic 78rpm albums of the past: young players such as Ricci, Haendel and Krebbers entered the fray as did more familiar figures such as Campoli and Francescatti. Even old timers such as Albert Spalding, officially retired, were coaxed back to the recording studio to leave behind their musical thoughts on the subject.
The Szeryng-Thibaud LP must have sold pretty well as it often crops up on the secondhand market. Given the vast number of times he recorded the work – commercially or live there are many examples ranging from a Teatro Colón performance in 1946 to Saarbrücken with Myung-Whun Chung in 1988 - one may wearily wonder if this archive inscription can possibly be of any value. Well indeed it can. Even alongside his best-known traversals with the heavyweight trio of Schmidt-Isserstedt, Ančerl and Klemperer, this 1953 recording has much to contribute.
With his warm tone, medium-speed vibrato and electric trill, Szeryng was well placed to produce an admirable Beethoven Concerto. There’s considerable sentiment in his tone and his slides are apposite and tasteful. He takes the Joachim cadenza and plays it splendidly, whilst Thibaud marshals his forces, including some slightly acidic winds, with perception. The slow movement is raptly devotional but possesses an inner nobility of spirit that ensures that northing tips over into sentimentality. Wind counter-themes register well, to which Szeryng responds with a fine range of tone colours and textures. The delicious play of upper and lower strings informs the playfulness of the finale; high spirits and inner finesse ensure a hugely communicative feeling is engendered for which the conductor too must take some laurels. Altogether this recording shows Szeryng’s mechanism operating at a formidable level in January 1953, whilst also showing a sensitive and technically impeccable stylist at work.
The two Saint-Saëns works were rarities in his discography and he only recorded them once more, with Édouard Remootel and the Monte Carlo Orchestra in 1969. Here Szeryng, who had long immersion in the Parisian school, unveils his suitably vivid tone. In a studio rather boxier than that at the Palais de Chaillot two years later in the Beethoven, Szeryng still manages to project an unerringly alluring tone, swashbuckling his way through the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and vesting plenty of subtlety of bow weight in the Havanaise.
Yes, these inscriptions still have plenty to tell the listener about Szeryng’s stylistic affinities and musical prowess. An elite player he plays splendidly throughout this 63-minute disc, which has been transferred with distinction.