Arthur Grumiaux & Clara Haskil

8.99 €

The Grumiaux-Haskil duo lasted for over a decade. Totally dedicated to the music, they approached their repertoire and their audiences with natural and unaffected playing. Lyrical pureness, accurate tonal balance, absolute commitment and sublime musicality were some of the most characteristics of this renowned ensemble. So under any circumstance, you should not miss this legendary Strasbourg Recital 1956, that has never been published before and confirms by far all these praised epithets around this overwhelming couple.

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ARTHUR GRUMIAUX and CLARA HASKIL – The legendary Strasbourg Recital 1956 – previously unreleased

1-3. MOZART: Violin Sonata in B-flat Major, K.454 [21:57]
4-6. MOZART: Violin Sonata in F Major, K.376 [15:23]
7-8. MOZART: Violin Sonata in E minor, K.304 [10:45]
9-11. MOZART: Violin Sonata in A Major, K.526 [19:38]
12. BEETHOVEN: II. Adagio con molt’espressione, Violin Sonata No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op.12, No.3 [06:29]

Recorded · 19 June 1956 · Strasbourg · Grande Salle du Palais des Fêtes · Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française · Live Recording

Arthur Grumiaux · violin
Clara Haskil · piano

Additional Information

Article number: MC 2000
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050225
Total time: 74:15

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Boris Lipnitzki
With special thanks to late Geoffrey Alan Blyth
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Arthur Grumiaux was born on March 21, 1921 in Villers-Perwin, Belgium. As with many other artists he had one definite source of inspiration and help as a child. In his case it was his maternal grandfather – a self-taught amateur musician who conducted the local band in Villers-Perwin. “I don’t quite understand exactly how he did everything without any kind of formal training. You see, he even wrote music for the band and, since then, I’ve had a chance to look at the parts. Absolutely nothing is missing. It just came from his fantastic instinct. You see my parents, who were not rich, were always out at work and I was virtually brought up at my grandparents. I remember one day a violinist came to him for a lesson and my grandfather noticed that I tried to imitate him with two pieces of wood in my hand. He also noted that I had a natural sense of rhythm, and he decided he would try to teach me. I was just five at the time. In three weeks, so I’ve been told, I could sing in tune as well as read the notes. Apparently, when a church bell started to ring, I shouted out what note was sounding and my grandfather, hurrying to the piano, said it was the right one. At that moment he decided I should learn the violin. A year later I began the piano seriously too and for several years I studied both instruments at the Charleroi Conservatoire. We lived nearby in the village of Fleurus—famous only for the fact that it was the last place Napoleon fought a battle before Waterloo.”

AG

Deciding to concentrate on violin, he advanced his studies by working with Alfred Dubois at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, and also worked on counterpoint and fugue with Jean Absil. He also received a degree in history, literature and languages from the Episcopal College. As a student he won several prizes as the Prix Vieuxtemps and the Belgian National competition in 1939, and received the Prix de Virtuosité from the Belgian government in 1940. During this time he also studied composition privately in Paris with the Georges Enesco. “When I was 12, I was told I would really have to choose between the instruments. I obstinately said that I wanted to go on playing both, but my grandfather wisely chose the violin for me and I went to Brussels to study at the Royal Conservatoire with Alfred Dubois, himself a pupil of Eugène Ysaÿe and a wonderful teacher. Of course, I also studied theory and compositions and, in addition, regular subjects such as History, Spanish and English. I was just starling my career when the war broke out. In fact, I had made my Brussels debut in 1939 with the Brussels Philharmonic under Charles Munch playing the Mendelssohn and I was due to appear in Paris”. For Grumiaux’s career, nonetheless, the war may have been something of a blessing in disguise. He was able to consolidate his technique and repertory, though it was certainly frustrating – and dangerous.

He was in the Belgian underground during the last year of hostilities and he also managed to play a lot of chamber music. Robert Maas, the cellist of the Pro Arte Quartet, was marooned in Brussels when the war began and couldn’t get a visa to join his fellow-players in the United States, so he asked Dubois if he could get together a quartet to play for practice and fun, and Grumiaux was one of the violinists. He wouldn’t play in public for the occupiers. As soon as the war was over, Grumiaux resumed his career and the first place outside Belgium that he visited was England — at the invitation of Walter Legge, who signed him up for EMI. He gave the European premiere of the Walton concerto under Sir John Barbirolli just three weeks after the British troops entered Brussels. Since then he had toured Europe extensively each season as well as in Israel, Japan. In 1951-52 he made his first North American tour, appearing in recitals and with the Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and Houston Symphonies.

Perhaps the most significant event in these years was his meeting with the Romanian pianist Clara Haskil (1895-1960) – at Prades in 1953, where their immortal partnership began. The two artists worked together, joined by a mysterious instinctive bond, as if they had known each other for years. Grumiaux, who valued Haskil’s friendship highly, said “We immediately found ourselves in complete rapport. I remember we were going to play the Beethoven Op. 96 Sonata a difficult work to bring off — but we needed to rehearse it for only an hour, and it was like that from then on. Our thoughts always ran along the same lines. It was just pure pleasure lo play with her — she had such extraordinary musicianship. I remember with happiness until today our Beethoven cycles in Milan, Paris and elsewhere. Since her death in 1960, I have net found anyone to replace her, though I have played sonatas with very many capable pianists. I always have in mind what she did with the music, though I am longing to have a similar rapport with another pianist”.

Clara Haskil

Grumiaux’s playing has been included on over many recordings, nearly all under Philips, although he recorded on the labels of EMI and American Boston Records. He actually made his first LP records for this small Boston label, run by former BSO French horn player James Stagliano. It included in collaboration with two pianists Paul Ulanowsky and Gregory Tucker – Bach’s Chaconne, Fiocco’s Allegro, Mozart’s Sonatas K. 301 & 304, Debussy’s Violin Sonata, Bartók’s Rumanian Folk Dances in the familiar Szekely arrangement, and Ravel’s Pièce en forme de Habañera and Tzigane. In addition to his solo work, he has recorded Mozart quintets with the Grumiaux Ensemble, and various selections with the Grumiaux Trio, comprised of the Hungarian husband-wife duo Georges Janzer (viola) and Eva Czako (cello).

The prospect of making records used to frighten Grumiaux: “The idea of that red light suddenly going on made me feel terrible. Now I forget all about it and I play just as I would at a concert – I must emphasise that I think this is essential to get good results. What are my favourites? Oh, I think the records I made with Haskil, and the Bach unaccompanied sonatas and partitas. Many others especially of my earlier records, I would like to make again”. He was constantly looking for new pieces but in all honesty there were very few that he could possibly consider playing “because so many composers today are no longer making a musical sound — they’re just producing noise. My preference is for beautiful music and that’s not what I find today. What has there been since Berg’s, Bartok’s and Walton’s concertos? Schönberg’s maybe but I find that only interesting and hardly a match for the Berg. I do feel a duty towards present-day composers, but I simply cannot undertake a piece unless I feel a sympathy with what it’s trying to express. I don’t care much for aleatoric techniques. After all, if the composer hasn’t written the notes, it’s hardly his work – it’s more mine. I exclude cadenzas from that criticism, of course.”

He advanced into Belgium academia when he was appointed professor of violin at the Royal Conservatory, replacing his teacher, Alfred Dubois, who died in 1949. For many years, he emphasized the importance of phrasing, the quality of sound, and the high technical standards of artistry. He liked teaching – “provided the material is good” – and he had several wise words or advice for his younger brethren. “I feel that technically there are many players today who are marvellous but far too many of them are unwilling to think for themselves. They buy all the records of a piece and are inclined to copy what they consider the best models, practising by ear. I think it’s absolutely essential to study a work really hard for yourself in the first place so that you have your own, very firm ideas of how the music should go. Then you may listen to other performers and perhaps adapt your own interpretation if you hear some particularly revealing point. But the basic ideas, the main principles must be your own. Dubois used to set me to study a piece for a whole week without any advice so that I should work out the music and even the fingering for myself. Only then did he begin to advise me. Another point – young players are far too keen to change teachers, spending a few months with this one or that one, before moving on to the next. This is also bad. They are tossed this way and that as though in a storm – nothing remains steady”.

He was a member of the juries of the major international violin competitions in Prague, Geneva, Paris, Brussels and Rome and the competition for piano, the Clara Haskil Competition. His successful performance career led up to royal recognition, as in 1973, he was knighted baron by King Baudouin, for his services to music, thus, sharing the title with Paganini. Despite a struggle with diabetes, he continued a rigorous schedule of recording and concert performances, primarily in Western Europe, until a sudden stroke in Brussels took his life in October 16, 1986. At the age of 65, Grumiaux left behind the memory of his elegant and solid musicianship.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

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