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Reviews: Beethoven, Bruch: Violin Concertos - Grumiaux

Reviews: 5

Review by sgb August 30, 2006 (11 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I counted four performances of the Beethoven Violin Concerto available in the SA-CD format from which one could choose; five for the Bruch, which was something of a surprise to me, given the reputation of these works. As for the venerable Beethoven, I can think of only one other that I might look upon more favorably than this recent release of the Grumiaux: that would be the Francescatti/Walter recording of the early sixties that originally appeared on Columbia.

The Grumiaux has been my second favorite recorded performance for the better part of three decades. From my view, only Francescatti evokes a greater sense of élan when it's called for, nor is his pathos and melancholy more evocative than what we'll hear in that momentous recording. Grumiaux with Davis conducting has always seemed to be a little reticent, or perhaps subtly more composed, in these instances, but there's little doubt that the Royal Concertgebouw trumps the players assembled for Walter's Columbia Symphony (as I hear these two performances thirty-some years later). Nevertheless, the Grumiaux has withstood the onslaught of more modern releases as critics and violinists in vogue come and go. I could not, for example, comprehend the various accolades that the critics bestowed on the Perlman release of the early eighties, nor those of the latest round from several others. These newer performances may demonstrate the techniques of the artists involved, but few are so sympathetic to the music as my two old stand-bys. I am certain that most classical enthusiasts will have their own favorites.

Several years ago, some time after my appreciation of recorded sound had matured somewhat, I came to an understanding of just how splendid is the sound of the Concertgebouw. After hearing dozens of examples of how that recording location can convey of sense of just how regal the sound is, I began investigating this further. I soon found that many of the Concertgebouw recordings could more amply portray the sound of that hall in a manner that would delight most audiophiles. This Grumiaux/Davis recording is no exception. The sound is sweet and liquid throughout, with a great sense of orchestral depth and height that rivals the very best. For that reason, this recording shouldn't be missed.

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Review by madisonears December 7, 2006 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I love this performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and now it sounds better than ever. This has been my reference version for a long time (since buying the LP in the 70's!). It is romantic, regal, lilting, imperious, and tender by turns. Grumiaux's playing borders on witchcraft at times, with a sweet, rich tone and full range of emotion. The Kreisler cadenza is a beautiful bit of music in his skilled hands, and it suits this concerto very well. Colin Davis and the Concertgebouw fill the hall with perfectly phrased and timed support, and the engineers have captured it all from an ideal perspective, providing fullness and detail together. This kind of reproduction of music can lift the human spirit, and instill in us some of Beethoven's idealism and love of life.

I cannot criticize the performance of the Bruch because I am not as familair with that piece. The sound is fine.

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Review by darkroommd January 6, 2007 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
1959 Stern/Bernstein/New York on Sony
1980 Perlman/Giulini/Philharmonia on EMI

I keep seeing the word "aristocratic" attached to Grumiaux and this account of the Beethoven with the Concertgebouw. I think this is a fair assessment as the performance is a high class reading without excessive emotionality or showmanship. There is hardly anything to criticize yet hardly anything to rave about either. I would have no problem with this being the only recording in my collection. Like an early poster, I love the Concertgebouw both for its hall's acoustics and its members' refined and gorgeous playing. Nevertheless, musically and technically, Grumiaux pales in comparison to Stern's exquisite playing. This is a case where, IMHO, the orchestra outshines the soloist. Make no mistake, this is a very professional performance, but just isn't all that memorable.

PentaTone does a fine job converting the 4-channel master tape into a 4-channel SACD. As usual, there is wide dynamic contrast, but somewhat less detail and transparency than the best modern DSD recordings.

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Review by EdBoxer October 24, 2012 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Beethoven Violin Concerto; Arthur Grumiaux, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Colin Davis

I remember hearing this recording in the mid 70s and wasn’t impressed. The years and the SACD sound have not changed my opinion. In fact, I’ve always much preferred Grumiaux’s recording with Galliera (which has what I find missing here: an interpretation). Grumiaux and Davis seem to be literally studying the score rather delivering a performance. At no point do they even seem to be enjoying themselves. There is no spontaneity, no life.

The 4-channel SACD sound, while very nice, unfortunately duplicates the poor sound of the original. Now I know some love this sound, but I find it muddy with the orchestra seeming to be placed well behind the Grumiaux. The woodwinds sound like they are a good 150 feet behind, when you can hear them at all. There are also some rather tell-tale multi-mike moments of wandering instruments. The French horns start on the left and move to the right. While there is a good sense of space, there is a significant loss of placement and clarity.

Performance 2 Sound 2

Bruch Violin Concerto 1; Grumiaux, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Heinz Wallberg

This recording I did not know beforehand. The performance lacks what the Bruch requires: the joy of virtuosity. It just sounds too labored.

The 4-channel SACD sound is instantly a vast improvement over the Beethoven. While the Violin is maybe even a bit closer, the orchestra is infinitely better recorded. Crystal clear instruments placed in the soundfield (although again, a few instances of mike wandering). After this, the Beethoven sounds like the orchestra was recorded behind a curtain.

Performance 3 Sound 5

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Review by Kapharios December 6, 2012 (3 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
The performance is superb, as all Grumiaux. The sonics are a bit disappointment, as the mixing sounds a bit artificial. This was an original quadraphonic recording and the violin sounds way to loud in comparison to the orchestra. It is still worth the money.

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