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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D, Op.61 [43:46]
Romance No.1 in G, Op. 40 [7:51]
Romance No.2 in F, Op.50 [9:43]
Bronislaw Gimpel (violin)
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Heinrich Hollreiser
rec. February 1955, Bamberg

Quite why Bronisław Gimpel has taken a backseat is difficult to comprehend; maybe it was the fact that he was never signed by a major label. His career embraced several roles, that of soloist, concertmaster, chamber musician, teacher and conductor. He was born in Lemberg, now known as Lviv, a city in western Ukraine, in 1911. He had a brother Jakob, a concert pianist who also recorded music for motion pictures. Bronisław enrolled at the Lwów Conservatory to study with Moritz Wolfstahl at the age of eight. By eleven he’d progressed sufficiently to begin studies at the Vienna Conservatory under the tutelage of Robert Pollack, who was Isaac Stern’s early teacher. Later, Gimpel spent about a year with Carl Flesch at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, yet never attained the acclaim of the pedagogue’s most famous pupils, who included Henryk Szeryng, Ida Haendel, Ivry Gitlis and Ginette Neveu. Flesch advised him to get some orchestral experience, and Gimpel spent time working under Herman Scherchen in Königsberg and Otto Klemperer in Los Angeles. After the war a solo career was launched. This period of his life saw him found the Warsaw Quintet, and later the New England String Quartet in the States. Between 1967 and 1973 he taught at the University of Connecticut. Other teaching posts included a spell in the 1970s as a professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK. He returned to his remaining family in Los Angeles in 1978 and died a year later aged only sixty-eight.

The transfers, which I must say, are expertly managed, derive from a 1955 Vox mono LP (VOX PL 9340) with sound that barely reveals its age. Listening to Gimpel’s playing, I firmly conclude that this is some of the finest I've heard. In the Concerto there's an intelligent grasp of architecture and structure, where everything logically unfolds. His well-grounded virtuosity equals the very best. His bow arm achieves a firm, resolute, rich burnished tone, with a vibrato, not only expressive, but capable of accomplishing an expansive tonal palette. He's responsive at all times to even the subtlest of nuances. Kreisler’s cadenzas are employed throughout, and the double stops that litter them are vibrant and intense. The slow movement is radiant, with the lyrical phrases ardently etched. The finale delights with its infectious rhythmic vitality and bite. Hollreiser and the Bamberg forces furnish magnificent orchestral support.

The lyrically alluring Romances give us an opportunity to sit back and bask in the beguiling radiance of Gimpel's enchanting tone. My only criticism is that the F major Romance is a tad on the slow side. Hollreiser's sensitive accompaniments couldn't be bettered. 

Stephen Greenbank 

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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