Monday, 11 December 2017

In Praise of Arthur Grumiaux

A friend who recently visited Japan bought a few CDs of recordings by Arthur Grumiaux, and sent me copies. Readers of this blog will know of my high opinion of Grumiaux (if they do not, there is a search box on the top left-hand corner of the blog page). Grumiaux and Adolf Busch were the two great string players in chamber music during the twentieth century, and both knew how to surround themselves with suitable partners of the same standard. Grumiaux's suave, elegant playing so representative of the Franco-Belgian school, has survived the decades, and hearing him play Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert plus the French and Belgian classics is still a wonderful experience. (Of course, Grumiaux also played anything and everything – even the Berg concerto in 1967 – but it is in the classics, the French school, and in chamber music that his true greatness as a violinist is revealed). My good friend sent me Grumiaux playing Vivaldi concertos, Beethoven string trios, and Schubert violin and piano sonatas; a rare feast. Another feast comes in the Beethoven string trios and Schubert works in so far as recording quality is concerned. Nearly fifty years ago, Philips knew how to make excellent recordings with a perfect balance between instruments … and was also able to transfer the analogue recordings to digital media without the glassy sheen that afflicts so many transfers.

As a side note: why is it that the Japanese almost alone have always kept on sale recordings of great violinists of the past? The three Grumiaux CDs that my friend sent are not available here. Years ago, when I wanted a 10-CD set of the recordings of Gioconda de Vito, I had to get them from … Tokyo. And when I wanted a set of the LĂ©ner Quartet's complete Beethoven quartets, I had to get them from … Tokyo. I have many, many recordings of music played by Arthur Grumiaux. I will retain them until the day I die.

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