Francescatti: Chausson Poeme Op. 25 + Saint-Saëns Op. 28 - Columbia 33 FC 1017 (10" LP)
Jacket VG / LP EX
French pressing - blue/silver label - mono
This beautiful 10” LP from Columbia (FC 1017, French pressing, blue/silver label, mono – no stereo edition exists) features Zino Francescatti in ravishing performances of Chausson’s Poême for Violin and Orchestra Op. 25 and Saint-Saëns’ Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso Op. 28, both made with conductor Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, on 5 November 1950 – magnificent performances both!
Wrote the eminent critic Lionel Salter in his review for the January 1954 issue of The Gramophone: “As far as sheer performance goes, there is little doubt that Francescatti scoops the pool. His full but sweet tone and mastery of technique give him a poise which the competing recordings lack, and his sense of style makes him keep the music flowing without too heavy a pressure : we receive the fragrance of the music's scent without being stifled by it. This is most assured playing, and the orchestra also shows its quality in the passionate surge of the strings. The recording is fairly good, though the timpani are but faintly audible at the first entry of the violin and there is a deterioration in the latter part of the disc. It will not have escaped the notice of the observant that, alone of these three versions, this is contained on a so in. side.
“On the reverse of this last disc we have a Saint-Sanes showpiece, which will occasion a real battle of the giants, since this was released not long ago in a stunning performance by Heifetz (who, to complicate matters still further, took only half a side over it). Comparison of these rival versions by the two greatest violinists of our time is fascinating—especially to those with any personal experience of string playing. Both are in the first flight, but careful listening reveals some differences. Francescatti is placed further from the microphone than Heifetz was, but his tone is more opulent in the course of the piece, however, it may be doubted whether he lightens it sufficiently and there is less delicacy, less sublety of nuance, than in his rival's performance. He adopts a slightly slower tempo, which gives him the chance of lingering a little more lovingly over emotional phrases, but which, par contre, detracts slightly from the sparkle of his spiccato arpeggios just before the coda. The orchestra is rather coarsely recorded, but its function here is not of prime importance. This is a case where readers must make their own choice—or, or course, decide to buy both versions and start endless arguments in their listening circle.”
Incidentally, the lovely cover art was executed by Laignez. There are excellent liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket, in French only, by Serge Berthoumieux.