Classical Reissue Reviews

Franco Gulli plays PAGANINI = Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor; Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6 – Franco Gulli, violin/Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI/Mario Rossi/Orchestra “Alessandro Scarflatti” di Napoli della RAI/Nino Sanzogno – IDI

Superbly affectionate and virtuosic readings of Paganini from the violinist who premiered the Fifth Concerto in 1959.

Published on November 26, 2010

Franco Gulli plays PAGANINI = Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor; Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6 – Franco Gulli, violin/Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI/Mario Rossi/Orchestra “Alessandro Scarflatti” di Napoli della RAI/Nino Sanzogno – IDI

Franco Gulli plays PAGANINI = Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor; Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6 – Franco Gulli, violin/Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI/Mario Rossi/Orchestra “Alessandro Scarlatti” di Napoli della RAI/Nino Sanzogno (Op. 6)

IDI IDID 6594, 59:17 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:

I had the immense pleasure of having interviewed the late Franco Gulli (1926-2001) in Atlanta, after he played a dazzling Baal Shem Suite by Bloch with Louis Lane and the Atlanta Symphony. A virtuoso-pedagogue, Gulli played every sort of violin music, including chamber music with his pianist-wife Enrica Cavallo. I recall our trading tempos on our sung renditions of Rudolfo’s “Vivo!” from La Boheme.  When I mentioned “discs” to Gulli, he generously supplied me with work that the Musical Heritage Society had issued on LP, including the two Busoni sonatas, of which I programmed the Op. 29 for broadcast at WMRE-FM, Emory University.

Gulli premiered Paganini’s “undiscovered” Fifth Concerto 13 September 1959 in Siena, the orchestral part having been supplied by Federico Mompellio. Gulli sported Paganini’s own Guarnerius instrument for many of his inscriptions, and in conductor Mario Rossi–the “Karajan” of RAI–he has a marvelous colorist for this live collaboration from 1960, a time when Gulli’s technique had virtually no peer in Europe. The opening Allegro maestoso offers the usual Paganini formula, a grand ritornello and a lovely operatic arioso, peppered through with pomp and oratory. The violin exerts plastic variants on the opening material–with trills, double stops, harmonics, glissandos, fast alternate bowed and pizzicato passages–while bassoon or staccati strings play underneath or alongside.

 The long, nasal line of the expressive Andante flows out effortlessly, a florid Italian opera aria that befits Don Giovanni’s serenading maiden in a redolent grove, his flute tone exquisite. The last movement Rondo: Andantino Allegretto proceeds as a hybrid seguidilla-habanera in ornate Latin colors. Tripping and cavorting in high-strung roulades and spectacular flourishes, the music could have been composed no less by Sarasate, and the explosive audience certainly thinks a modern Sarasate played it.

The familiar D Major Concerto (1961) enjoys the benefit of the full orchestral tutti at its opening Allegro maestoso. Florid lyrical taste permeates every bar, with both Sanzogno and Gulli in total agreement that Paganini’s lithe figures deserve the same respect accorded Mozart. The operatic grandeur that occasionally erupts belongs to Rossini, Bellini, and the bel canto tradition, here transposed to the instrumental medium. The plaintive sincerity which  forms no less a part of the Paganini canon makes us feel we intrude upon a tender love scene in Verona, at which Shakespearean immortals tryst. The first movement cadenza–partly Paganini, partly improvised–applies a ferocious counterpoint and any number of harmonics and multiple-stops to any already fiendish violin part. The final two movements conform to our expectations of brilliant virtuosity, resonant, elastic, affectionate, and deftly spontaneous. A stunning addition to the recorded Paganini legacy.

–Gary Lemco




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