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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K216 (1775) [21:48]
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K218 (1775) [21:50]
Paul Makanowitzky (violin)
Sarre Chamber Orchestra/Karl Ristenpart
rec. May-June, 1961
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR683 [43:41]

Meloclassic has thus far devoted two volumes to the art of violinist Paul Makanowitzky as preserved in radio broadcasts, but Forgotten Classics has disinterred examples of his commercial legacy. This is the first of their releases I have encountered, though the Brahms Sonatas will not be far behind. As he is pretty much a niche name, a brief resume may be in order.

Makanowitzky (1920-98) made a number of recordings and had a strong reputation as a tough pedagogue. Born in Stockholm, but brought up in Paris by his Russian-born parents, where he was taught by Ivan Galamian. His Russian background, Galamian’s teaching, and the Parisian milieu, then dominated by Jacques Thibaud, clearly left their mark. Galamian, much impressed, later brought him to the Juilliard as his first assistant. He served bravely in WW2 – he was a gunner in B-24s over Europe, where he was shot down in 1944 and held in a POW camp. He resumed performance after the war, but by 1967, still only 47, he gave up on the round of concert-giving and devoted himself to teaching. In 1983 he retired.

It’s a strange trajectory, but he was certainly not the only musician, whose life was interrupted by the war. Perhaps there was a lack of inner compulsion as a soloist, or perhaps he was heard at his best as a chamber musician. He was fortunate that he formed a decade-long ensemble with NoŰl Lee, so that between 1954 and 1964 they gave many recitals, and examples exist of their involved music-making. It’s their Brahms cycle that I’ll be reviewing.

For now, here is the violinist’s coupling of two Mozart Concertos. Made in 1961 with the highly efficient collaboration of Karl Ristenpart, it reflects well on all concerned. The Saar Chamber Orchestra is a disciplined band, with some characterful wind players, and has a most suitable string weight for K216 and K218: there’s nothing blowsy or over-inflated about either the playing or the recording quality. The wind choirs are forward without being unduly spotlit, and counter-themes, such as in the slow movement of K216, are deftly pointed. The soloist has the gift of keeping rhythms agile without rushing his bars and brings an appropriate bow weight to bear throughout. There’s no real sign here of his occasionally problematic bowing, something that I occasionally find in his live broadcast performances. His legato is elegant and unshowy and he characterises effectively.

One can hear the rather spacious recorded acoustic in the opening of K218 more than in the companion concerto, but it’s of little account. Here one finds sprung elegance and a sense that no one is doing too much. There’s a naturalness to the phrasing and a rather disarming ease of execution, though it’s not lacking in lyricism. The Rondo finale goes at a reserved tempo and even if the double stops could be more tonally alluring and evocative, there are adept colouristic moments that keep the playing alive throughout.

This really is pretty much a forgotten disc. Released on Le Club Franšais du Disque and licensed to Nonesuch, it makes a most appealing restoration in this fine transfer. There are no notes, as is almost always the case from FR, but for aficionados the playing will speak for itself.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 




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