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Zino Francescatti In Performance: Previously Unissued Recordings*4 CDs priced as 3* Box set


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Zino Francescatti was a French violinist with an Italian-sounding name, who was big in the late mono/early stereo era, both as a recording artist and in concert circles. If the name of Francescatti has not survived as well as some of his contemporaries -- for example Jascha Heifetz or Yehudi Menuhin, the latter being a generation younger, but began competing with Francescatti as a child prodigy -- it is partly because Francescatti's commercial recordings have had very little exposure in the digital era. Francescatti's commercial recordings belong to Sony Classical, which has never been big on reissuing its monophonically made classical recordings -- call it, if you will, "Zino's Paradox." However, this has not stopped European companies from reissuing them, usually without proper credit or identification of provenance. This Music and Arts set, Zino Francescatti: Violin Concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, is a totally different animal in that it is not made up of studio recordings, but entirely from live concert appearances, broadcasts, and possibly a rehearsal or two, ranging from what would have been mid-career from Francescatti to near the end, 1946 to 1972. The four-disc set is partly made up of concerto performances with Andr Cluytens in 1946, Leinsdorf and the ORTF in 1969, Paul Kletzki and the same orchestra in 1970, and with Dorati in 1972. The balance is taken up with duet settings, most recorded in 1958 and 1961 with Eugenio Bagnoli at the piano from Besan on and Bordeaux, and a Beethoven Sonata No. 7 in C minor Op. 30/2 with Robert Casadesus from 1963. These really do not seem to have been issued on CD before, and Music and Arts does not address the issue as to where these recordings come from, although they seem to imply that some of these tapes may have belonged to Francescatti himself at one time. The booklet does come with a detailed biographical sketch and an appreciation of Francescatti's studio recordings, none of which appear here, by Henry Roth that originally formed a chapter in Roth's book Great Violinists in Performance. With a group of recordings of such extensive provenance maintaining a consistency from one to the next is impossible, but engineer Maggi Payne does a terrific job in coming as close to that ideal as is possible, and in making the whole thing quite listenable. Even if you do not know the name of Francescatti well, violin fanciers really should try out this set. Francescatti falls right in between the creamy sonority and perfect tone of Heifetz and the emotional intensity of Menuhin, but most of all he is reminiscent of Thibaud with his Gallic sense of elegance and fluidity. All of it is enjoyable to listen to, despite the sonic flaws, and these are duly indicated along with the track listing. Zino Francescatti: Violin Concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky may not cause you to discard all of the recordings of these concertos that you already own, but as a musical adventure in itself it is highly satisfying, as Zino Francescatti was truly a great player. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis , Rovi

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