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Franco Gulli reDiscovered
Franco Gulli (violin)
rec. 1957-97
RHINE CLASSICS RH-005 [11 CDs: 774 mins]

Franco Gulli (1926-2001) was born in Trieste, and initially studied the violin with his father, a pupil of Otakar ŠevčÝk and Jan Mařßk at the Prague Conservatory. Later he transferred to Joseph Szigeti in Switzerland. He began his career as concertmaster of the Milan Chamber Orchestra and soloist of the renowned ensemble I Virtuosi di Roma. He met his wife, the pianist Enrica Cavallo (1921-2007), after the war, and together they formed the Gulli-Cavallo Duo in 1947. The two later married in 1950. The duo performed regularly up until Franco’s death, having toured the world. Throughout his life he gave masterclasses and sat on the juries of several international competitions. He was a member of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome, the Accademia Cherubini, Florence, and the Reale Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, and held a Professorship at the University of Bloomington in Indiana. One of his claims to fame was his 1959 recording premiere of the then newly-discovered Paganini Concerto No. 5, and a performance is featured in this collection.

The recordings span a period of forty years from 1957 to 1997 and derive from a variety of sources. What we have are live broadcasts, original masters and studio recordings (LP 33 RPM). The project has been realized under the auspice of Giuliana and the Gulli family. The audio restoration has been expertly achieved by Emilio Pessina, with annotations supplied by Paolo Pessina. 

Bach’s two violin concertos derive from a studio broadcast dated 10 May 1973 from Baden-Baden. The orchestra is the Sinfonieorcheste des SŘdwestfunks Baden-Baden under Ernest Bour. Tempi are just right, and the slow movements breathe and unfold naturally. The sound quality is very good, as is the Cleveland broadcast of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 ‘Turkish’ in which the violinist supplies his own cadenzas.

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing a studio recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto that Gulli made with the Orchestra des Concerts Lamoureux under the direction of Rudolf Albert in 1958, reissued on Forgotten Records (FR1468). I commented on the violinist's "nobility of expression ... patrician elegance and wisdom". Fast forward to 1965 and we have a live airing from Torino sympathetically partnered by Mario Rossi. Sound-wise I have no quibbles, and the two readings are interpretively very similar. Gulli employs the Kreisler cadenza. Other qualities both performances have in common are the violinist's silken tone and purity of intonation. I love the high-spirited finale and the concluding exultant coda. For the Triple Concerto from two years later, the violinist is partnered by Enrica Cavallo on piano and Giacinto Caramia on cello. Once again it's a live recording. Each of the soloists is given their moment in the sun and at no time is there any jostling for the limelight. It's a partnership of equals from beginning to end. The recording balance is excellent, spotlighting each soloist to advantage. The violinist and cellist joined forces again that same year for Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante. Elio Ovcinnicoff and Ubaldo Benedettelli perform the oboe and bassoon parts respectively. This underrated work is lyrically effusive and this secures its appeal. It certainly receives its just desserts here.

Three of Paganini's concertos are featured. The Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major is a live performance from 13 July 1961 with the Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI under Nino Sanzogno. Gulli is on top form, alternating dazzling bravura with bel canto lyricism. He plays ╔mile Sauret’s  spectacular cadenza, also favoured by Menuhin,  in the first movement. The Concerto No. 2 has much more bloom and depth to the sound, understandably as the Hannover performance dates from 1983. There's plenty of fizz and dazzle in the famous Campanella finale. The Fifth Concerto dates from around 1830 and only the solo part survived. It was left to Federico Mompellio to make a completion. Remy Principe and Gulli supplied the cadenza. It calls upon a lexicon of violin pyrotechnics, and Gulli rises to the challenge admirably. It's a melodically generous work, certainly deserving of more outings.

The orchestra sounds rather recessed in Othmar Schoeck's Violin Concerto "quasi una fantasia" in B-Flat Major, Op. 21. However, there's no lack of heartfelt desire, and regret of unrequited love. The melancholy of the opener and the elegiac drift of the middle movement are amply compensated for in the playful finale.  If you like good tunes then the Busoni Concerto will be just up your street. It's a delightful work of fairly modest proportions that has inexplicably remained in the shadows. We can be thankful to the producer Emilio Pessina for gaining the artist's permission to tape this 1997 outing and preserve it for posterity.

It's regrettable that Mario Rossi's accompaniment sounds rather four-square and the soloist is decidedly in your face in the Bartˇk Second Concerto, as Gulli has a real feel and affinity for the work. There are no such problems of balance in the Viotti Concerto No. 22, a live event from February 1964. It's an attractive work, which the soloist fully savours. At its centre is a mellifluous slow movement, which Gulli's dulcet tone elegantly sculpts.

Busoni's two Sonatas for violin and piano were set down in a studio in New York in 1975 and, as such, they are in remarkably fine sound with balance between the two instruments as it should be. Gulli is partnered by his wife, who delivers the highly demanding piano parts adeptly. The violinist was an ardent admirer and friend of Szigeti, and it’s more than likely that the latter’s recording of the Second Sonata drew the younger man to this repertoire. The friendship may also have sparked an interest in the Prokofiev First Violin Concerto, and the 1957 performance from Naples under the inspirational direction of Sergiu Celibidache reveals an affectionate admiration for the work.

For those of a more adventurous persuasion, Gulli’s forays into lesser-known and rarely-heard repertoire will be welcome. Giorgio Federico Ghedini is represented by two works. The Divertimento in D major was dedicated to Wanda Luzzato, and the Rhine Classics box of her recordings includes it. In 1961, the composer wrote Contrappunti for the Trio Italiano d’Archi. Its inclusion here is significant, as Gulli founded the ensemble. In Ned Rorem’s Day Music, 8 Studies for violin and piano, the violinist is partnered by his wife in a live performance from Alice Tully Hall, New York in 1980, a work I found witty, ballsy and appealing.

CDs 10 and 11 feature two recitals given by the Gulli-Cavallo Duo. The first is their Golden Jubilee Recital from Trieste, set down 24 November 1994, recorded on DAT tape by Emilio Pessina. The acoustic is rather cavernous. A noble rendition of Bach's Chaconne opens proceedings. It's followed by an ecstatic Chausson PoŔme, guaranteed to enrapture the senses. The Vieuxtemp's Romance in C minor, a newcomer to me, I didn't enjoy one iota. I find it tedious and uninspired as a work. I much preferred the second recital on the final disc -  “Settimane Musicale Senesi”  of 17 July 1999 from St. Antimo Abbey, Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Montalcino, Siena. It's in better sound and is a much more substantial programme. The Mozart K 301 is a reading of refined elegance. In the Debussy Sonata, one of two performances in the set, the duo emphasize the shifting harmonies and underline its manifold sonorities and textures. In the Ravel, the duo render the blues movement jazzy and improvisatory, yet without sounding overly mannered. Rubato is always within the bounds of good taste.

The whole package smacks quality, from the sturdy box to the beautifully produced booklet. Track detail listings and a useful biographical portrait are desirable elements. Violin mavens will be equally drawn to the photos of Gulli with notable colleagues - Oistrakh, Kogan, Szigeti and Stern. Equally attractive are the individual photos of the violinist which adorn all eleven CD sleeves.  Sound quality is variable throughout, but this comes as no surprise taking into account the provenance of the recordings. Overall you’ll be more than satisfied. The original master tapes offer warmth and intimacy.

All told, this highly desirable collection offers an amalgam of engrossing repertoire, refined musicianship and passionate commitment.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf
Johann Sebastian Bach
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, BWV 1041 (c.1730)
SO des SŘdwestfunks Baden-Baden | Ernest Bour
recorded: studio | Fernsehstudio, Baden-Baden | 10 May 1973
Giovanni Battista Viotti
[4]-[6] Violin Concerto No.22 in A minor, G 97 (1793/97)
O A.Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI | Tibor Paul
recorded: live | Auditorium RAI, Napoli | 19 February 1964
Niccol˛ Paganini
[7]-[9] Violin Concerto No.1 in D major, Op.6 / M.S. 21 (1816)
O A.Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI | Nino Sanzogno
recorded: live | Cortile Reggia di Capodimonte, Napoli | 13 July 1961

Niccol˛ Paganini
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor, Op.7“La Campanella”(1826)
RPO Hannover des NDR | Aldo Ceccato
recorded: studio | Gro▀er Sendesaal, Hannover | 23 September 1983
Niccol˛ Paganini
[4] ambience take from recording session
[5]-[7] Violin Concerto No.5 in A minor, M.S. 78 (1830)
OS di Roma della RAI | Mario Rossi
recorded: studio | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 20 July 1960
“Rendez-vous Ó cinq heures” by Pierre Divoire:
[8] J.S. Bach| Sonata No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001: 4. Presto
[9] Interview in French
[10] N. Paganini| Caprice No.17 in E-flat major, Op.1-fragment-
recorded: studio | RTF, Paris | 7 February 1957

Johann Sebastian Bach
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto No.2 in E major, BWV 1042 (c.1718)
SO des SŘdwestfunks Baden-Baden | Ernest Bour
recorded: studio | Fernsehstudio, Baden-Baden | 10 May 1973
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
[4]-[6] Violin Concerto No.5 in A major, KV.219“Turkish”(1775)
Cleveland SO | Aldo Ceccato
recorded: live | Severance Hall, Cleveland | 31 January 1980
Franz Joseph Haydn
[7]-[9] Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major, Hob.I:105 (1792)
Franco Gulli, violin | Giacinto Caramia, cello
Elio Ovcinnicoff, oboe | Ubaldo Benedettelli, bassoon
Orchestra of Naples (O A.Scarlatti della RAI) | Denis Vaughan
recorded: studio | Sala d’Ercole, Palazzo Reale, Napoli | 1965

Ludwig van Beethoven
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto in D major, Op.61 (1806)
(Cadenzas 1 & 3: Fritz Kreisler)
OS di Torino della RAI | Mario Rossi
recorded: live | Auditorium RAI, Torino | 10 September 1965
Ludwig van Beethoven
[4]-[6] Triple Concerto for piano, violin, cello in C major, Op.56 (1803)
Enrica Cavallo, piano | Franco Gulli, violin | Giacinto Caramia, cello
O A.Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI | Massimo Pradella
recorded: live | Cortile Reggia di Capodimonte, Napoli | 30 July 1967

╔douard Lalo
[1]-[4] Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op.21 (1874)
(short version - without 3. Intermezzo)
OS di Torino della RAI | Ferdinand Leitner
recorded: live | Auditorium RAI, Torino | 15 April 1957
BÚla Bartˇk
[5-[7] Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor, Sz.112, BB 117 (1937/38)
OS di Torino della RAI | Mario Rossi
recorded: live | Auditorium RAI, Torino | 31 December 1959

Sergei Prokofiev
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto No.1 in D major, Op.19 (1916/17)
O A.Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI | Sergiu Celibidache
recorded: live | Conservatorio S.Pietro a Majella, Napoli | 22 December 1957
Giorgio Federico Ghedini
[4]-[7] Divertimento in D major, for violin and orchestra (1959/60)
OS di Milano della RAI | Lovro von Matacic
recorded: live | Sala Grande, Conservatorio, Milano | 23 February 1962
Giorgio Federico Ghedini
[8]-[10] Contrappunti, for string trio and orchestra (1960/61)
Trio Italiano d’Archi:
Franco Gulli, violin | Bruno Giuranna, viola | Giacinto Caramia, cello
OS di Milano della RAI | Sergiu Celibidache
recorded: live | Sala Grande, Conservatorio, Milano | 5 April 1968

Othmar Schoeck
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto in B-flat major, Op.21“Quasi una fantasia”(1911/12)
Schweizerisches Festspielorchester | Niklaus Aeschbacher
recorded: live | “35. Musikfestwochen” - Kunsthaus, Luzern | August 1973
Ferruccio Busoni
[4]-[6] Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35a, BV 243 (1896/97)
Odel Teatro Comunale G.Verdi di Trieste | Georg Mark
recorded: live | Palasport Carnera, Udine | 31 May 1997

Ferruccio Busoni
[1]-[3] Violin Sonata No.1 in E minor, Op.29, BV 234 (1890)
[4]-[6] Violin Sonata No.2 in E minor, Op.36a, BV 244 (1898/1900)
Enrica Cavallo, piano
recorded: studio | New York | 1975
Ned Rorem (1923- )
[7]-[14] Day Music, 8 Studies for violin and piano (1971)
Enrica Cavallo, piano
recorded: live | Alice Tully Hall, New York | 11 August 1980

Claude Debussy
[1]-[3] Violin Sonata in G minor, CD 148 / L.140 (1917)
[4] tuning and ambience
Ernest Chausson
[5]-[8] Concert for violin, piano, string quartet, in D major, Op.21 (1889/91)
Enrica Cavallo, piano
Academica String Quartet:
Mariana Sirbu & Ruxandra Colan, violins; James Creitz, viola; Mihai Dancila, cello
recorded: live | Teatro Comunale, Monfalcone | 5 May 1987
Ernest Bloch
[9]-[11] Baal Shem, Suite for violin and piano (1923)
Enrica Cavallo, piano
recorded: studio | Milano | 1979

Golden Jubilee Recital | “Recital per i 50 anni di carriera” (1944-1994)
Johann Sebastian Bach
[1] Violin solo Partita No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 5. Chaconne
Ernest Chausson
[2] PoŔme for violin and piano, Op.25 (1896)
Maurice Ravel
[3] Tzigane, "Rhapsodie de concert", M.76 (1924)
encores/bis, announced by Franco Gulli:
Ernest Bloch
[4] Baal Shem, Suite for violin and piano (1923): 2. Nigun
Henri Vieuxtemps
[5] Romance in C minor, Op.7 No.2 “DÚsespoir” (1841)
Giuliana Gulli, piano
recording: live | Sala Tripcovich, Trieste | 24 November 1994
Ernest Bloch
[6] Suite No.1 for solo violin (1958)
recording: studio | Milano | 1963

56░ “Settimane Musicali Senesi” Recital
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
[1]-[2] Violin Sonata No.18 in G major K.301/293a (1778)
Ottorino Respighi
[3]-[5] Violin Sonata in B minor, P.110 (1916/17)
Claude Debussy
[6]-[8] Violin Sonata (No.3) in G minor, CD 148 / L.140 (1917)
Maurice Ravel
[9]-[11] Violin Sonata No.2 in G major, M.77 (1923/27)
encores/bis, announced by Franco Gulli:
Franz Schubert
[12]-[13] Grand Duo in A major, Op.posth.162, D.574: 3. & 2. mvmts
Enrica Cavallo, piano
recorded: live | St Antimo Abbey, Montalcino, Siena | 17 July 1999

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