Ruggiero RicciSir Adrian Boult Jean Fournet
Piero Gamba Sir Malcolm Sargent
CD 1 7007
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 611 I Allegro ma non troppo 23122 II Larghetto 9303 III Rondo (Allegro) 928
London Philharmonic OrchestraSir Adrian Boult
FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 644 I Allegro molto appassionato 12495 II Andante 7486 III Allegro non troppo Allegro molto vivace 702
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic OrchestraJean Fournet
CD 2 5557
MAX BRUCH (1844-1908)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 261 I Vorspiel (Allegro moderato) 7502 II Adagio 8163 III Finale (Allegro energico) 718
London Symphony OrchestraPiero Gamba
ANTONN DVORK (1913-1976)Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53
4 I Allegro ma non troppo Quasi moderato 10255 II Adagio ma non troppo 11336 III Finale (Allegro giocoso ma non troppo) 1015
London Symphony OrchestraSir Malcolm Sargent
Ruggiero Ricci, violin
Total timing: 12604
Among these four great nineteenth-centuryconcertos, the Beethoven D major standsalone. The conductor of this recording, SirAdrian Boult, characterised it as perhaps themost thoughtful concerto, the one whichneeds for the violinist to be a great man as wellas a great player. Yet it had an inauspiciousstart in the concert hall, in Vienna in 1806. Itsfirst performer, Franz Clement, apparently avery neat, Classical player, executed varioustricks between the first and secondmovements, including one in which he playedthe violin upside down. It was left to thegreatest player of the century, Joseph Joachim,to rescue the work from virtual oblivion,starting with a London performance on 27 May1844, when he was only thirteen.
The conductor that evening was FelixMendelssohn, who was still working on hisown highly original contribution to the genre it would be premiered in Leipzig the followingMarch by its dedicatee Ferdinand David. Noother violin concerto appears quite so perfect,perhaps because it had a seven-year gestation and even after finishing it, the composercontinued to work on it before it waspublished. The most original stroke is heardstraight away: the usual opening orchestraltutti is dispensed with, and after one-and-a-half
bars of accompaniment the soloist enters.Mendelssohn also writes out the cadenza in thefirst movement, rather than leaving it to thesoloist; and he links all three movements sothat the piece is heard continuously.
Mendelssohn, David and Joachim allinfluenced Max Bruchs most famous work,the G minor Concerto, which in 18648 wentthrough all kinds of contortions including twopremieres before emerging as a popularfavourite. Mendelssohns influence is clear inthe outline of the work, and David advised ondetails, as he had with Mendelssohns E minor.But the main shaping hand was Joachims: hefirst saw it in the summer of 1866 and gavethe first successful performances early in1868. For various reasons Bruch made virtuallyno money out of the concerto and he died instraitened circumstances.
Joachim again had a major role in determining the final form of Antonn Dvorks A minorConcerto. It was written in the late summer of1879 and dedicated to Joachim, who bothsuggested wholesale changes and made a fewhimself, but kept the concerto for two yearsbefore rehearsing it at the Berlin Hochschule.He never played it in public and it has neverquite caught on, although its first performerFrantisek Ondrcek had success with it the
premiere took place in Prague in 1883 and virtually every great violinist has performedit. The first movement is rather foreshortened,which may have told against the work withJoachim, but the transition to the lovely slow movement is magical and the finale hasgreat spirit.
The performer on these discs, Ruggiero Ricci,went through a number of transformations inthe course of a long life which still vigorouslycontinues. Born to Italian immigrant parents onPresidio army base, San Francisco, on 24 July1918, he was named Woodrow Wilson Rich byan army doctor but christened Roger AlexisRich. His father was a self-educated trombonistand bandmaster and his six siblings were allmusical violinist Emma and cellist Georgebecame professionals. The piano wasRuggieros first love but his father was set onhis becoming a fiddler. At eight he went toLouis Persinger, whose assistant Beth Lackeytook him and George off to New York andsupervised his five hours of daily practice. It wasshe who suggested the boys should revertprofessionally to their fathers real surnameRicci and take the Italianate first namesRuggiero and Giorgio.
Ruggiero made his debut on the West Coast on15 November 1928, billed prodigy-style as an
eight-year-old. On 20 October 1929 he playedthe Mendelssohn Concerto at MeccaAuditorium, New York, with Henry Hadleyconducting the Manhattan Orchestral Society,and received rapturous notices. A Carnegierecital followed on 29 November and he wasback at Mecca Auditorium a year later to playthe Beethoven Concerto.
An unsettled period ensued. He hadunsuccessful lessons with Mishel Piastro in1931, toured Europe in 1932 appearing inBerlin with Bruno Walter and in Budapest withErnst von Dohnnyi, billed as an eleven-year-old studied with Georg Kulenkampff inGermany and the Auer disciple Paul Stassevichin Norway and America, then returned toPersinger. He first appeared in London in 1934.
At sixteen he nearly gave up the violin for thepiano. Then one day I came across a pile of oldnewspaper cuttings and I realised how reallygood I had been just five years earlier. If I hadbeen that good at eleven, there was no reasonwhy I couldnt get back on form. He achievedthis feat through a note-by-note analysis ofPaganinis Caprices. Paradoxically World War II,which seriously interrupted his career, was themaking of him artistically. He was attached tothe U.S. Army Air Forces Western Commandas Entertainment Specialist Ricci, one of five
leaders of a crack orchestra in uniform. Heperformed a vast range of concertos and inrecitals was often required to play without apiano, which reinforced his predilection for theCaprices. Most fiddlers would be content to beable to play Paganinis Moto perpetuo Riccisparty trick was to play it backwards.
After the war Ricci made several world tours,visiting the Soviet Union three times. Hepremiered Ginasteras Concerto in 1963 and vonEinems Concerto in 1970; and introducedPaganinis Fourth and Sixth Concertos toAmerica, as well as music by Goehr, Rodrigo,Lees, Pizzetti, Flury, Arnold, Jacques-Dalcrozeand Zimmermann. He maintained a repertoireof some 50 concertos, of which he was generallyready to play 30 or 40 at short notice, andunearthed pieces by violinists such as JosephWhite, Bull, Spohr and Ernst. After more thanfive thousand appearances in 65 countries, hegave his last public performances in 2003.
Ricci has taught at Indiana University, theJuilliard School, the University of Michigan andthe Salzburg Mozarteum. At various times hehas been based in Europe or America and henow lives in Palm Springs, California, givingmasterclasses in the Los Angeles area under theauspices of the Jascha Heifetz Society. He hasplayed hundreds of Stradivari and Guarneri
violins (even Paganinis Guarnerius) since hefirst borrowed a Strad in 1929. From 1957 hismain instrument was the 1734 GibsonGuarnerius del Ges.
The first of Riccis 500-plus recordings whichinclude two versions of Bachs Sonatas andPartitas and half a dozen of the 24 PaganiniCaprices, one on video were made on 78rpmdiscs for His Masters Voice before the war. On26 and 27 January 1950 he began a long seriesfor the British Decca label with the TchaikovskyConcerto, accompanied by the New SymphonyOrchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent. Thecharacteristic Ricci resinous tone, intensevibrato and slightly crunchy bow attack werevividly captured by the Decca engineers, oftenheaded by the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson.
Three of the recordings here were made in thefamous acoustic of Kingsway Hall and Riccirecalls: I was on the stage and the orchestrawas down where the audience sits. I had acompletely separate place, whereas most of thetime, when you record with orchestra, yourestanding in front of the concertmasters placeor next to the conductor. In Kingsway Hall, youwere completely separated like in an opera. Inan opera, the orchestra is in the pit and thesinger has a special place all alone up thereseparate from the orchestra. When youve got
the fiddle standing in front of theconcertmaster, you dont have much separationof sound. Thats why the old way in KingswayHall was much better. They had youseparated. Of the supervisor of the Beethovensessions, he says: I remember that at Decca, Ihad a very good producer, John Culshaw. Hewas really terrific the best one they had.Decca got the best sound and that was him.You cant beat the sound they got. Its hard toequal that.
For the Bruch Concerto he was accompaniedby the young Piero Gamba, who as Pierinohad been a child podium prodigy. I think theythought theyd put the two of us together the two young guys. I guess they thought itwas a good gimmick. Of his producer forthose sessions, he says wickedly: I rememberJames Walker. He was such a conservative guy.When he used to drive, he wouldnt go morethan 30 miles an hour or something on thehighway. Amazing! He was the slowest driveron the road.
Of the Mendelssohn recorded at Hilversum, hissecond version of the work for Decca, hereminisces: What I remember is that Irehearsed it and some girl violinist was there atthe rehearsal and she said, I was amazed athow fast you played the first movement. It was
too fast. And so I paid attention to the idiotand I said to