Classical Reissue Reviews

Bronislav Gimpel, violin = Works of SIBELIUS, SZYMANOWSKI, WIENIAWSKI, SCHUBERT, MENDELSSOHN & Others – Various artists – Audite (3 CDs)

The Ukraninian violinist was among the finest virtuosis on his instrument. A 3-CD reissue package.

Published on October 8, 2012

Bronislav Gimpel, violin = Works of SIBELIUS, SZYMANOWSKI, WIENIAWSKI, SCHUBERT, MENDELSSOHN & Others – Various artists – Audite (3 CDs)

Bronislav Gimpel, violin = SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47; SZYMANOWSKI: Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 61; WIENIAWSKI: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22; SCHUBERT: Violin Sonata in A Major, D. 574; MENDELSSOHN: Violin Sonata in F Minor, Op. 4; SCHUMANN: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 105; JANACEK: Violin Sonata; TARTINI: Violin Sonata in G Minor, Op. 1, No. 10 :Didone abbandonata”; RATHAUS: Pastorale et Danse for Violin and Piano, Op. 39 – Bronislav Gimpel, violin /Martin Krause, piano/ RIAS Symphony-Orch./ Fritz Lehmann (Sibelius)/ Arthur Rother (Szymanowski)/ Alfred Gohlke (Wieniawski) – Audite 21.418 (3 CDs) 73:44; 59:50; 47:47 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

“His full sweet tone and effortless technique place him among the greatest virtuosi,” still must stand as a final judgment on the persuasive powers of Ukrainian violinist Bronislav Gimpel (1911-1979). The documents assembled at RIAS 1954-1957 confirm the presence of a completely polished violinist of the highest order, an elegant spokesman for the most versatile of old-world sensibilities. The eminently masculine reading of the Sibelius Concerto in D Minor (26 June 1955) with the often under-rated conductor Fritz Lehmann should consign Gimpel to the exalted aether of Sibelius interpreters. Yet, for the instantiation of “feminine” grace and suave stylization, try his unhurried assurance of the Schubert Sonata in A (15 April 1955) with Martin Krause from the RIAS studio in Berlin. The last movement Allegro vivace has all of the mature finesse we hear in Szigeti but a virile tone and security of technique that instill mystery as well classical poise to this charming work.

Like Yehudi Menuhin, Gimpel favored the 1825 Violin Sonata in F by Felix Mendelssohn (rec. 16 April 1955), a product of the composer’s sixteenth year. Relatively undemonstrative, the piece reveals an innate melodic charm in the Mozart manner. The intimate chamber music quality of the collaboration proves most consistent and emotionally apt.  The Poco adagio offers us another “song without words” of especial poised inspiration, almost a combination of the Brahms “Lullaby” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” The last movement Allegro agitato may nod once or twice to Beethoven, but without that master’s sense of thunder. A more hothouse flower emerges in the A Minor Violin Sonata of Robert Schumann (rec. 4 February 1955), dark, obsessive, and hauntingly beautiful. Gimpel’s throaty tone and innate rubato strike us as eminently suited to the late Schumann style. We must also count among the works for which Gimpel’s passionate clarity fits perfectly the Wieniawski D Minor Concerto (rec. 26 February 1954) in its pristine uncut form, which even Heifetz did not maintain.  The Polish zal and melodic sympathy with which Gimpel impels the work forward with conductor Alfred Gohlke impart a beguiling aura around this concerto, which too often devolves into an “effective” display piece. On the opposite end of Gimpel’s broad spectrum, we have a chiseled performance of Tartini’s nobly impassioned “Didone abbandonata” Sonata (rec. 4 February 1955) that shows off Gimpel’s marvelous capacity for nuance, “symphonic” color, and tonal control that often sizzles in the manner of contemporaries Milstein and Ricci.

Gimpel’s innate cosmopolitanism shines forth in works like the hazy 1932 Concerto No. 2 by Karol Szymanowski (rec. 1 April 1957) with Arthur Rother, a conductor who had worked with among others, Georg Kulenkampff.  Szymanowski had composed the work for fellow Pole Paul Kochanski, who shared the composer’s fascination with folk idioms. The Janacek 1914 Violin Sonata (rec. 29 June 1955), to paraphrase Milan Kundera, “captures unknown, never expressed emotions, capturing in all their immediacy.” In four movements, the work conveys a kind of literary, exotic sensibility, the second movement’s having been designated Ballada Con moto. Scholars speculate that the piece existed prior to 1914, but the military incursion of WW I on Poland “forced” Janacek’s hand. Gimpel’s angular, lyrically poignant, flawless rendition easily provides a model for later exponents of the work—Kremer and Sitkovetsky—to imitate. The playing by Krause and Gimpel of the third movement Allegretto projects an eerily ghostlike atmosphere that might have been painted by Gustav Moreau. Lastly, Polish émigré Karl Rathaus’ Pastorale et Danse, Op. 39 (rec. 3 February 1955), a piece conceived  around the time of his fateful departure from Europe, a move that allowed him to become a pedagogical sensation at the relatively new (est. 1937) Queens College in New York. In somewhat Bartok-inspired figures and pungent rhythms, the piece dazzles with its sudden scherzandi and declamations. A “bluesy” element occasionally seeps into the syntax, which remains tonal and modal at once. The use of harmonics and the equivalent of folkish semi-tones places the work well within the Bartok ethos. A stomping gypsy dance ensues, Allegro vivace, which has no less a vibrant melodic humanity.

—Gary Lemco




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