ARTHUR GRUMIAUX: PHILIPS RECORDINGS 1955-1978

Review by: Dan Davis

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 6

Arthur Grumiaux was Philips’ “house violinist” for more than 30 years. Fortunately, he also was a great artist whose luminous tone, elegant style, and musical integrity made him revered among lovers of his instrument. So here’s a hearty welcome to this 6-CD box of worthy recordings Grumiaux made between 1955 and 1978, most of which are getting their first international CD release.

The first two discs are devoted to the Handel and Bach violin sonatas. The Handel sonatas, enlivened by Grumiaux’s long-lined phrasing and soulfully sweet slow movements, suffer from a recording balance that relegates Robert Veyron-Lacroix’s harpsichord to a faint tinkling background presence. Balances are better in the Bach works, where Egida Sartori’s harpsichord is a positive factor alongside Grumiaux’s poised playing. Disc 3 has more Bach–the A minor and E major violin concertos recorded in 1955–which join Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons from 1978.

Disc 4 alone is worth the modest price of the entire set–a lovely if generically “classical-era” Michael Haydn concerto along with Grumiaux’s irresistibly radiant performances of Schubert’s four melodically rich violin sonatas.

The final two discs plunge us into the Romanticism of Mendelssohn (both violin concertos), Bruch (his First violin concerto and the Scottish Fantasy), and Tchaikovsky (a delicious Sérenade Mélancolique and the ubiquitous concerto), along with shorter morsels from Wieniawski and Svendsen. The Mendelssohn works are apt examples of Grumiaux’s refusal to over-emote while still capturing the essence of the style; his opening solo statement of the E minor concerto is generously phrased with a glowing tone, the slow movement flowing naturally while gently tugging at the heartstrings. Also exemplary is the classicism he brings to works like the Tchaikovsky concerto, here played with a tenderness often missing from more overtly virtuosic performances.

Grumiaux recorded multiple versions of many of these works over the years, and while some listeners may prefer one or more of those, everything in this box will bring listening satisfaction–and much, primarily including the Handel and Bach sonatas, the Schuberts, and the Scottish Fantasy, will threaten to take permanent residence in your CD player. It’s also worth mentioning that all of these discs are well-filled, with timings ranging from 71 to an eye-popping 81 minutes! [3/7/2007]



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Recording Details:

Album Title: ARTHUR GRUMIAUX: PHILIPS RECORDINGS 1955-1978

Various works by Handel, J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Michael Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Wieniawski, & Svendsen -

  • Arthur Grumiaux (violin)
    Robert Veyron-Lacroix (harpsichord)
    Egida Giordani Sartori (harpsichord)
    Paul Crossley (piano)

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