Arthur Grumiaux

Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Viotti: Violin Concerto No. 22

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There are performances of Beethoven's violin concerto that seem to go on forever, where the opening Allegro ma non troppo sprawls, the central Larghetto drags, and the closing Rondo wears out its welcome early on. Thankfully, this is not one of them. As Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux demonstrates in his 1966 Philips recording of the work with Alceo Galliera leading the New Philharmonia Orchestra, Beethoven's violin concerto is, in fact, a sprightly and lyrical work. As always in Grumiaux's performances, the lines are long and legato, the tone svelte but sweet, the technique infallible, and the intonation impeccable. Everything is melody in this performance, unfolding as a single unbroken bel canto span. With the seasoned Galliera as the accompanist and the dependable New Philharmonia as the capable orchestra, this is one of the great Beethoven violin concerto recordings.

Nearly the same could be said of Grumiaux's 1970 recording of Giovanni Battista Viotti's Violin Concerto No. 22, except that there are more than 100 recordings of Beethoven's concerto extant and less than 10 of Viotti's concerto. But as in Beethoven's work, Grumiaux turns in a flawlessly polished and wholly persuasive performance of this fiery early Romantic work, and though here the conductor was the youthful Edo de Waart, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's accompaniment is just as fine its English competition. Both performances were recorded in Philips' most natural stereo sound, and both are well worth hearing by any fan of great violinists.

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