One of the most significant violinists in gramophone history, Alfredo Campoli enjoyed tremendous success in the 1930s as a purveyor of light music, both in concerts with his own salon orchestra and on Decca. A series of six 2CD reissues from Eloquence focuses on the violinist’s postwar reinvention of himself as ‘Campoli’, the classical soloist.
When Campoli made this recording of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto at the very end of 1956, he had lately returned from a tour of the Soviet Union which had been facilitated by the temporary thaw in Cold War relations. Also on the tour, Gerald Moore later recalled that in Russia, Campoli had been spoken about in the same breath as Oistrakh. In stereo and in partnership with the Spanish conductor Ataulfo Argenta, the Tchaikovsky sessions catch the violinist on masterful form, imbuing the concerto with every shade of subtle rubato.
Campoli is hand in glove with several other Decca house conductors on four more complete long-play and medium- play discs featuring concertante bow- and showstoppers: there is the sophisticated playfulness of the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Saint-Saëns, his habanera-like Havanaise leading smoothly into the gypsy fire of Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, the gymnastics of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole and the melodic composure of Wienawski’s Légende. Campoli is accompanied by the young Piero Gamba in a concerto of particular significance for him, Kreisler’s one- movement arrangement of Paganini’s First Concerto. When he played it at a Henry Wood Promenade concert in the summer of 1938, the violinist later told Gramophone, ‘it was one of the proudest moments of my life when the Queen’s Hall audience recalled me six times.’
All the recordings in this series of ‘Alfredo Campoli: The Bel Canto Violin’ have been given new remasterings from original Decca sources. Invaluable context on both artist and repertoire is provided by new booklet essays from Campoli’s biographer David Tunley. ‘Campoli has the technical equipment and musical understanding to exploit these varied works to the fullest. Notable features, aside from his big, singing tone in all of them, are his subtlety and phrasing and rapid double-stop passagework in the Havanaise and his entirely gypsy-like approach to the Zigeunerweisen.’ High Fidelity, November 1957
‘Campoli is an enormously proficient violinist, one on the order of a Stern, Oistrakh, or anybody else you can name. His tone has amazing solidity and sweetness, his fingerwork is impeccable, his intonation is a joy… Admirable recorded sound, and Gamba leads the London orchestra in precisely adjusted accompaniments.’ High Fidelity, September 1957 (Saint-Saëns, Paganini-Kreisler) ‘A refreshingly vital performance distinguished by the gorgeous opulent tone and unmannered directness of Alfredo Campoli.’ Fanfare, September 2003 (Lalo)