This is a most comprehensive portrait of Ruggiero Ricci's work with Decca across the whole 1950's, a strange decade of inertia but also one of high artistic panache as these superb recordings demonstrate.
Ricci's Paganini Caprices are a world of devilish beauty and the splendid sound only adds to the immediacy of the solo violin in one's listening room. I greatly enjoyed his version and would add it to Perlman's overtly more famous version in EMI's GROC series as highly recommended.
Next is a disc of Paganini concertos under Anthony Collins. Although the versions are old-fashionedly edited by the conductor, #1 is also a showcase of Ricci's brilliance as is the similarly effusive 'La Campanella' with some outrageous histrionics in the concluding Rondo. Ravel's Tzigane makes up the rest of the disc in another classic recording with the OSR under Ansermet's genial hand.
The Sonatas by Weber and Richard Strauss are very collectible and I believe that they are new to CD as are the previous discs. Bussotti is a genial accompanist who is totally in tandem with his soloist and this is fairly evident in the loving performance of the Strauss sonata which is one of the best available. I also enjoyed the short Weber works having been totally unaware of them beforehand.
The fourth disc is dedicated to more concert party pieces with the obligatory Sarasate and Saint Saens concertante works. The 'Carmen' Fantasie goes well enough under Pierino Gamba's jolly direction as does the Zigunerweisen but I thought that the Havanaise was slightly lacking in colour and depth. The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso contains no such qualms however. The real highlight on this disc is the famous Symphonie Espagnole with Ansermet again proving to be the ideal accompanist.
Finally we have Ricci again playing the complex solo sonatas by Hindemith and Prokofieff, both very intense works although also very rewarding. I believe Decca left the best till last and this is definitely Khachaturian's superb Violin Concerto which finds Ricci in outstanding form and Fistoulari most definitely in his element. The whole set is well presented, contains marathon timings and some rare photographs, not to mention a fine introductory essay by Stephen Johnson.
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech