The Great Violinists, Vol. 22

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With Symposium's The Great Violinists Volume XXII we experience something this British historical label does better than many of its competitors; namely to expose historical recording artists that few, if any, have heard. This disc combines eight tracks by amazing violinist René Benedetti and nine European recordings made by American violin player Harry Solloway. It is Solloway who is the better known of the two, as his violin is heard in the soundtracks of countless movies made during Hollywood's "Golden Age." Benedetti was a chamber musician based mainly in Europe, and these records may be the only solos he ever recorded.

Of the two, Benedetti that captures one's attention immediately; he is very rapid, precise, and has an interesting and original approach to ornaments. Benedetti, who was the same age as Jascha Heifetz, possesses some similarity to Heifetz's tone and style, but is more aggressive and edgy -- his playing has electricity and practically crackles with excitement. From another discipline entirely comes Solloway, a student of Jenö Hubay who alternates broad, thickly applied strokes of portamento with passagework that is ultra-light, wispy, and incredibly fast. While Solloway's appeal may not seem so immediate coming in the shadow of a player like Benedetti, it is instructive to go back and hear him again without listening to his disc mate, as Solloway has something to offer on his own terms. Solloway also offers a rare performance of his teacher Hubay's Carmen Fantasie, whereas Benedetti is heard in an excellent reading of the more familiar Carmen Fantasie of Pablo de Sarasate.

Highly unusual in the Symposium release is that, while it contains the discographical data on the recordings used, it does not provide dates for any of the recordings, though they appear to be from the late '20s. The sound is excellent for Benedetti, and less so for Solloway; one hears differing degrees of crackliness depending on the condition of individual source recordings, but overall the sound is better than acceptable and the transfers are excellent.

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