Sunday, February 7, 2010

Louis Kaufman & Artur Balsam: Poulenc Violin Sonata First Recording

Here is the first recording of this work, with revisions to the score made by the composer in preparation for it. My copy is a two record 45rpm boxed Capital set in pretty decent condition, and I apologize for less than seamless joining of breaks between the sides. On the LP version the work was coupled with the Hindemith Sonata Op. 11 No. 2 , played by the same two performers. I have that in a 45rpm box, too, and will be adding it to this post shortly.

The performance emphasizes the angularities of the piece without losing credibility in the more lyrical passages, which are many. The Suk/Panenka, by comparison, the only other recording I am really familiar with, is slower (the first mvt. coming in at 6'30" as opposed to Kaufman/Balsam at 5'41") and generally more romantic. If you are like me, it is hard to resist Suk's silky tone and lush vibrato, and Suk/Panenka together are so musically attuned to each other that it's almost uncanny. But Kaufman and Balsam give this music a refreshing edge to which Poulenc, who apparently worked with them on the project, may have given his approval. All that aside, it is a very nice performance for its own sake, avoiding sentimentality, but not without feeling. The guitars simulation in the slow movement has a real Spanish flair lacking in the Suk reading, an especially affecting touch once one understands how well known as a balladeer Garcia Lorca was. A Gramaphone reviewer in 1950 was unduly harsh on poor Poulenc, apparently expecting a more hysterical, grief stricken tribute, but the review is an interesting document. It should be pointed out that the dedication "to the memory of Garcia Lorca", a victim of Franco fascists allied to the Nazis,was not entirely without risk in occupied France, where Poulenc spent the war.

FLAC and MP3 files


  1. Very nice! Never heard this before, but wish I had this when I played it a few months ago myself. I really appreciate the no-frills yet really expressive approach here!

    Do you know Kaufman's Copland Sonata recording? I think he makes the best case for that pretty neglected work.

    Thank you very much!

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I like the performance too, straightforward but deeply felt. I've found -- though I don't have a lot of his recordings -- that Kaufman rarely disappoints.

    I don't know his recording of the Copland sonata, but I'll keep my eye out for it, both in LP hunting and online.

    How did you like playing the piece?

  3. Lovely job! I don't know this piece at all and am glad to have discovered it.

  4. I agree, a lovely piece indeed, and very nicely recorded in 1949. Capitol put out some very good sounding recordings in the late 40s and early 50s, this one among them. Thanks for the comment.