Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vaughan Williams: Violin Concerto

Here is another recording première: the Vaughan Williams Concerto in D Minor for violin and string orchestra, written in 1925 for Yelly d'Aranyi, and given the rather ironic subtitle "Concerto Accademico" - a subtitle the composer came to dislike. Ironic, because there really is nothing academic about it; it's earthy, vigorous and boasts a particularly beautiful slow movement. There is the slight aura of Bach about it: if Villa-Lobos could write works he called "Bachianas Brasileiras" (Bach in Brazilian style) then this is surely a "Bachianas Anglicanas" or something like that - Bach in English peasant dress. In any case, I loved this concerto on first hearing it at age 13, and it remains one of my very favorite Vaughan Williams works.

Vaughan Williams: Concerto in D minor (Concerto Accademico)
Frederick Grinke, violin, with the Boyd Neel String Orchestra
Recorded May 8, 1939
English Decca X 248 and X 249, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 44.85 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 17.8 MB)

This recording features Winnipeg-born Frederick Grinke as the violin soloist, with the Boyd Neel String Orchestra conducted by - you guessed it - Boyd Neel. While Grinke moved from Canada to England as a young man, Neel made the reverse transition in middle age, becoming head of Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music in 1953. The strong Canadian ties of both men ensure that a fair number of their recordings can be heard at The Virtual Gramophone (see my list of links at the right), but this Vaughan Williams concerto is not among them. Nor are two other Boyd Neel String Orchestra recordings that I posted to RMCR previously, which are still available for download:

Dvorak: Serenade for Strings in E, Op. 22
Boyd Neel String Orchestra (leader: Frederick Grinke) conducted by Boyd Neel
Recorded Dec. 10, 1937 and February 18, 1938
English Decca X 214 through X 217, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 64.39 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 27.49 MB)

Stravinsky: Apollon Musagètes - Ballet (1928)
Boyd Neel String Orchestra (leader: Louis Willoughby) conducted by Boyd Neel
Recorded Feb. 17 and April 29, 1937
English Decca X 167 through X 170, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 71.62 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 29.09 MB)

The Stravinsky ballet is also a first recording (though Koussevitzky, with the Boston Symphony, had recorded one section of it in 1928), and the Dvorak Serenade might be, too.


  1. Thanks Bryan - A favorite of mine as well, and I haven't heard this recording.

  2. Bryan - thank you! The more Grinke the better: he's a violinist I admire greatly.

    This performance *is* on the Virtual Gramophone (I seem to remember there are even two different pressings of it), so I've heard it before. Still, it's very nice to hear it again.

    One disc that isn't there - and I'd very much like to hear - is Grinke's recording of the RVW Violin Sonata in A minor (dedicated to him) with Michael Mullinar, but that was issued in 1956 so it's obviously an LP rather than a 78. I may have missed it, but I don't know of a reissue.

  3. Makropulos - the Canadian Library has the VW concerto (2 different pressings and all), they just haven't gotten around to making MP3 files of it available yet. At least I couldn't find them.

    This performance turned up on a Boyd Neel Dutton CD in 1994, along with the Tallis Fantasia and 2 works by Britten, but that's now out of print, and it wasn't a very good transfer anyway.

    I'd like to hear that Sonata recording too! It was on London LL1382 coupled with the Arthur Benjamin sonatina with Grinke accompanied by the composer. One online retailer has it for £16 which is a little rich for my blood right now....

  4. Thanks for the clarification, Bryan. And you're dead right, it's that old Dutton CD that I have.

    I wonder if Dutton might get round to the VW Sonata - he's just brought out a Grinke disc of Rubbra, Berkeley and Reizenstein Decca recordings which is an encouraging sign...

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  6. Thanks for these posts, Bryan! I like Vaughan Williams very much, but you give me an enormous pleasure with the Stravinsky Apollon Musagète from 1937! I'm only an amateur in transferring 78s, (I only use ClickRepair), I'm curious to know how you get such beautiful results!

  7. Satyr - thanks for the kind words. I'm currently using Diamond Cut Audio Restoration Tool, version 5.0. Your transfers (the little bit I've heard) are actually quite good, but it would probably improve them to blend the 2 stereo channels into one, and the Diamond Cut tool will do this easily.

  8. Thanks for your advice! I'm learning how to improve the quality from record transfers, so this will surely help.

  9. A beautiful and strangely neglected piece. Many thanks, Bryan.