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Wanda Luzzato (violin)
Unreleased Recordings
rec. 1955-1979
Complete contents listing, dates and venues below
RHINE CLASSICS RH-002 [8 CDs: 510:00]

Up until a couple of months ago, I had never come across the violinist Wanda Luzzato. This omission can probably be put down to the fact that she never made any commercial recordings. Then, in the space of two months, two sets of live airings come along: a 2-CD set from Meloclassic which I have already reviewed, then this more substantial 8 CD box from Rhine Classics. The recordings in this compilation derive from the Wanda Luzzato archive, which consists of a collection of reel-to-reel tapes, containing radio broadcasts and rehearsal sequences, private documents and a sizeable cache of photographs, a fine selection of which are included in the booklet. The archive is housed at the ‘Museum of Musical History’ at Buda Castle in Budapest.

I think some biographical information is useful. She was born in Varese, Italy and started her musical studies at the Conservatory in Milan. In 1932, aged only thirteen, she entered the first International Violin Competition in Vienna and took joint fourth prize with the twelve year old Ginette Neveu; Gioconda de Vito took joint first with Karl Szenassy. Amongst the jurors was the Hungarian violinist and pedagogue Jenő Hubay, who was so impressed with her playing that he offered her a place in his class. She relocated to Budapest for the duration - from 1932 until 1937 the year Hubay died. His pupils included Franz von Vecsey, Joseph Szigeti, Zoltán Székely, Gerhard Taschner and André Gertler; her classmates were Johanna Martzy and Tibor Varga. Her subsequent career had its high points. In 1933 she performed the Sibelius Concerto in the presence of the composer. Later she appeared under the batons of Willem Mengelberg, Erich Kleiber, Felix Weingartner, Otto Klemperer and Carlo Maria Giulini. In 1948 she gave the Italian premiere of the Khachaturian Concerto. Her career had been halted for the duration of the war, and she remained in Hungary, during which time she had to hide in a cellar for two months. Her later career focused on teaching in Turin and Milan, where she died in 2002.

Luzzato commands a formidable technique. Her tone is sweet and pure and comes over as silvery in some recordings. Her vibrato is on the fast side, and her coloristic range isn’t as varied as the likes of say Menuhin, Heifetz or Perlman. Having said that, her sound is far from monochrome or one-dimensional. Intonation is for the most part pristine. She seems to be greatly influenced by Heifetz in her use of expressive slides and position changes; this is especially noticeable in the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky Concertos.

There are two live broadcast performances of the Mendelssohn Concerto dating from November 1966 and June 1970, conducted by Franco Caracciolo and Niklaus Wyss respectively. The earlier performance takes a broader and more spacious view in the first movement, which tends to lack the 'appassionato' element. Also, the soloist is forwardly projected, with the orchestra recessed. The later airing I much prefer. A more favourable balance is struck between soloist and players, the sound is better, and Luzzato and Wyss draw more inspiration from one another. The Tchaikovsky Concerto, broadcast from Milan in 1960 with Efrem Kurtz, is in a different league. Luzzato is on top form technically, and plays with commanding authority. The treacherous double stop rendition of the first subject at bar 162 of the development section, especially, is stunningly articulated. The slow movement is imbued with beguiling lyricism. Thankfully, in the finale, she employs the Auer cuts, which I much prefer as it rids the music of a great deal of tedious repetition. Listening to this magnificent performance, one can only regret that she wasn't afforded the opportunity to record it commercially. The only other work with orchestra included is the Divertimento in D major by Ghedini, which was written especially for Luzzato, and is here receiving it's world premiere performance. Cast in four movements, the first and third are intensely lyrical, with a second and fourth neoclassical in style. It's a rarity that I've never heard before, though I see Franco Gulli recorded it. We are treated to a twenty minute rehearsal for the performance with the composer himself putting the violinist through her paces. I only wish I could understand Italian.

Antonio Beltrami is the pianist in the lion's share of the performances. I’m familiar with his name from his collaborations with the cellist Antonio Janigro. One detects a sense of shared purpose and singular vision in the Luzzato /Beltrami partnership. The Veracini Sonata is an attractive work; the second movement is especially ingratiating, delivered with some potent vigour. Luzzato's ornamentation is stylish and tasteful throughout. The Handel Sonata is sadly let down by a heavy-handed finale. The lyrical Brahms Second is relaxed and spacious, with the last movement suffused with an ardent glow. The Strauss Sonata is particularly successful. There's plenty of heroic grandeur in the opening movement and a determined sense of direction. Both outer movements generate passion and lyricism. The middle movement is tender and intimate, and in the muted central section there’s a true improvisatory feel.

Luzzato's last recording took place in 1979 in the form of an Italian Radio broadcast of Mendelssohn's Sonata in F minor, Op. 4 and Schumann's Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121 with the pianist Leonardo Leonardi. They were taped in January of that year, but not broadcast until the July. Quite why she decided to retire whilst still young remains a mystery, as her playing at this stage was still technically secure. Though Mendelssohn's early F minor Sonata isn't in the same league as his later F major opus, there’s still plenty to relish in Luzzato's committed performance, informed by intelligence and compelling musicianship. The finale exudes geniality and exuberance. There's nobility and ebullience in the outer movements of the Schumann Sonata. The second movement is rhythmically virile, with the finale’s pizzicatos ringing out warmly in a set of variations on a theme reminiscent of a Bach chorale I cry to thee in deepest need. There are alternative recorded rehearsals of both sonatas from 1962. Here the pianist is Antonio Beltrami. Surprisingly these earlier documents are in more agreeable sound.

Several examples are included of recorded rehearsals ear-marked for later broadcast. As these derive from tapes which are unedited, we not only hear the performers speak but, in the case of the Schubert and Schumann Sonatas recorded in Milan in 1962 and broadcast in May 1963, there are alternative takes of the first movements. CD 3 contains two interesting works in this category, which we fortunately hear in their entirety: the Violin Sonata No. 3 by Franco Margola (a new one on me) and Pizzetti's Tre Canti for violin and piano. The Margola is a brief work, as it's title 'Sonata breve' suggests. It's a tuneful piece with a particularly attractive allegro middle movement, which has a humourous disposition. The ubiquitous Franck Sonata is notable for it's Gallic charm.

Tapes recorded in Luzzato's own home in Milan eavesdrop on her practicing regime. These sessions will be of particular interest to violinists. We hear her in sections from concertos by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky and the Ghedini Divertimento. She plays alone, not with a pianist. I was astonished at how well the tapes have survived, as evinced in the bright, clear audio quality.

I’m most impressed by Rhine Classics presentation. Everything about this production spells quality. The eight discs are each housed in a card sleeve which contains a tracklist. These in turn reside in a sturdily constructed box. The 31 page booklet is very well produced and attention to detail is paramount throughout. The first pages contain tracklistings, timings, dates and venues. Then comes a biographical portrait of the artist, followed by chronological sequencing of her studio radio and concert performances. All of this is in English by Professor Gianluca La Villa, who has made sterling efforts to resucitate Luzzato's reputation and restore her legacy. Half of the booklet is given over to superbly produced photographs from the archive. Pictures of the violinist, musical colleagues and concert programmes have added value in that the artist is relatively unknown. The source material of these recordings is variable, depending on provenance, but I found it all exceptionally fine and acceptable. Emilio Pessina's expert restorations and remasterings are to be commended. I would encourage all violin afficionados to explore this compelling collection.

Stephen Greenbank

Details

CD1 [67:26]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI | Efrem Kurtz
Recorded: live broadcast, RAI | Sala Grande del Conservatorio G.Verdi, Milano | 25 March 1960
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
[4]-[6] Violin Concerto (No.2) in E minor, Op.64
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI | Franco Caracciolo
Recorded: live broadcast, RAI | Teatro Fraschini, Pavia | 9 November 1966

CD2 [72:59]
Felix MENDELSSOHN
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto (No.2) in E minor, Op.64
Orchestra della Radio Svizzera Italiana | Niklaus Wyss
Recorded: live broadcast, RSI | Chiesa della Collegiata, Bellinzona | 7 June 1970
Giorgio Federico GHEDINI(1892-1965)
[4]-[7] Divertimento in D major, for violin and orchestra (1959/60) -dedicated to Wanda Luzzato-  
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI | Hilmar Schatz
Recorded: live broadcast, RAI | Auditorium RAI, Torino | 28 October 1960
WORKING-ON | REHEARSAL WITH COMPOSER:
Giorgio Federico GHEDINI
[8]   Divertimento in D major | violin solo part
Recorded: rehearsal | Ghedini’s room at the Conservatorio G.Verdi, Milano | October 1960
CD3 [59:00]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
[1]-[3] Violin Sonata in E-flat major, Op.18
Hans Vogt, piano
Recorded: original master | BS studio M3, SRG Radio, Basel | 23 February 1962
Franco MARGOLA (1908-1992)
[4]-[6] Violin Sonata No.3 “Sonata breve” (N. Cat. 46) (1936/37)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 19 December 1968 (broadcast: 17 January 1970)
Ildebrando PIZZETTI(1880-1968)
[7]-[9] Tre Canti, for violin and piano (1924)
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
[10]   La Fontaine d’Arethuse, Op.30/1 (1915)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1968 (never broadcast)
CD4 [67:17]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
[1]-[4] Violin Sonata (Sonatina) No.1 in D major, Op.137/1, D.384
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
[5]-[9] Violin Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.121 “Große Sonate”
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (broadcast: 29 May 1963)
(1-9: unedited tape | with performers speech)
Robert SCHUMANN
[10]-[13] Violin Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.121 “Große Sonate”
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (broadcast: 11 March 1963)
CD5 [66:25]
Felix MENDELSSOHN
[1]-[3] Violin Sonata (No.2) in F minor, Op.4
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
[4]-[7Violin Sonata in A major, M.8
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (telecast: 19 & 26 June 1963)
Franz RIES (1846-1932)
[8]   Perpetuum mobile, Op.34/5
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (never broadcast)
(1-8: unedited tape | with performers speech)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
[9]-[11] Violin Sonata No.2 in A major, Op.100
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | broadcast: 13 March 1955
CD6 [57:10]
Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690-1768)
[1]-[4] Violin Sonata in E minor, Op.2/8 (arr. Ferdinand David)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | broadcast: 13 March 1955
Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
[5]-[8] Violin Sonata (No.4) in D major, Op.1/13, HWV 371
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
[9]   Praeludium and Allegro “in the Style of Pugnani”, in E minor
Karol SZYMANOWSKI
[10]   La Fontaine d’Arethuse, Op.30/1 (from “Mythes”, M29)
Franz RIES
[11]   Perpetuum mobile, Op.34/5 (from “Suite No. III” in G major)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | 1969 (telecast: 26 June 1970)
WORKING-ON | VIOLIN SOLO:
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
[12] Violin solo Partita No.3 in E major, BWV 1006: I. Preludio
[13]-[14] Violin solo Sonata No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003: III. Andante
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1960
Niccolň PAGANINI (1782-1840)
[15]-[16] Caprice No.5 in A minor (Agitato), for solo violin, Op.1, M.S.25
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1960
[17] Caprice No.5 in A minor (Agitato), for solo violin, Op.1, M.S.25
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1966
CD7 [71:39]
WORKING-ON | VIOLIN SOLO PART:
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY
[1] Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35: I. Allegro moderato (fragments & Cadenza)
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | March 1960
Giorgio Federico GHEDINI
[2]-[5] Divertimento in D major (1959/60)
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | October 1960
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
[6]-[8] Violin Concerto No.4 in D major, K.218
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1970
Felix MENDELSSOHN
[9]-[11] Violin Concerto (No.2) in E minor, Op.64
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1966
CD8 [53:03]
LAST RECORDINGS:
[1]   Italian Radio broadcast announce
Felix MENDELSSOHN
[2]-[4] Violin Sonata (No.2) in F minor, Op.4
[5]   Italian Radio broadcast announce
Robert SCHUMANN
[6]-[9] Violin Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.121 “Große Sonate”
Leonardo Leonardi, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | 31 January 1979 (broadcast: 9 July 1979)

 

 




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