Opinions of Grumiaux?

January 7, 2005 at 04:00 AM · I'm new here, and have been fascinated to read the various discussions of the great players, particularly the thread about that towering talent, Nathan Milstein. One player who has made a deep impression on me is Arthur Grumiaux, for his purity and majesty of tone, his intonation, his stately architecture, and his perfection (in my view) of tempo. This impression is based in part on his out-of-print recording of the Brahms Concerto with the Royal Concertgebouw (Haitink) from 1958. I'm lucky enough to have a CD of it which was made from the old vinyl. (I might be persuased to share this CD with those who demonstrate sufficient enthusiasm, ha ha.)

I want to hear from others about Grumiaux's playing, and other great recordings he might have made. I have read much praise for his recordings of the Mozart concertos. Stories and opinuions are what I'm after here.

Replies (38)

January 7, 2005 at 04:38 AM · Greetings,

I have heard a recording of the Paganini 1 with him - not at all too my liking so generally my opinion and impression of him as a violinist (besides his bach) is not a enthusiastic one...

January 7, 2005 at 05:18 AM · Incredible Bach and Mozart.

January 7, 2005 at 06:17 AM · I'm with Violin T. His Bach is utterly sublime. The way it sounds on those old LPs is phenominal!

Preston

January 7, 2005 at 06:36 AM · Greetings,

on theotehr hand, his DVD of Bach is the most disgusting noise I ever heard. He would never have sanctioned its release, I am sure. On the same DVD he playes the Mendelssohn concerto so superbly one wants to weep and since it is live there are a fair number of bloopers in there taht don`t make the slighest difference but today`s players probably wouldn`t make them...

Cheers,

Buri

January 7, 2005 at 06:54 AM · I love his Brahms, Mozart and Bach - he played so elegantly and unostentatiously. As Buri pointed out, he was better on recordings than live, but this is no reason to appreciate him.

Carl.

January 7, 2005 at 07:12 AM · It's funny I should see this thread now, since not 10 minutes ago I ordered the limited edition Grumiaux Original Masters set (Philips, released in 2003).

I can only echo what others have said. I think he is extremely elegant and bloopers notwithstanding, very clean and precise. I consider his strengths to be demonstrated at their best in classical works where that lightness and elegance really pays off. I have always admired his superb bow work, tightly controlled vibrato and excellent intonation. But his phrasing and overall elegance is what I think puts him up amongst the great players.

As for bloopers, I actually don't mind a few here and there. It makes me feel better about my own playing :)

It's interesting that people have commented about his live versus recorded playing. I won't argue - I am sure they are right and I have never heard him live anyway. I wonder why that is. Do people think it's because he had an especially great infinity inside the recording studio that simply made his recordings "click", or was something else at work?

January 7, 2005 at 07:31 AM · Thanks to all for your comments so far. I will head for his Bach stuff posthaste. I've been stuck on Oistrakh's Mozart 3 for years; I'd better move on to A.G.'s.

>I can only echo what others have said. I think he is extremely elegant and bloopers notwithstanding, very clean and precise. I consider his strengths to be demonstrated at their best in classical works where that lightness and elegance really pays off. I have always admired his superb bow work, tightly controlled vibrato and excellent intonation. But his phrasing and overall elegance is what I think puts him up amongst the great players.<

Exactly, well-put. OK, so it's not just me. Talk about bloopers, I'll tell you what! There aren't any on that stupendous Brahms with Haitink. It is perfection. I spent time studying the much-vaunted Milstein w/Fistoulari today, and, much as I usually love Milstein, that performance doesn't come close to the Grumiaux, in terms of clarity, intonation, and precision of phrases. (Donning protective flame suit now.) I should add that it's also ferocious, especially his entrance at the beginning. Then, when he breaks out into those "high noodles," all is serene; he sounds like birds.

As to the reports about live/vs. studio stuff- I read in another thread here that he may have suffered from nerves in live performance. Jeez, so would I, if Grumiaux were in the room.

Just saw Zuckerman tonight with the Seattle Symphony also playing the Brahms. More later, but....damn good! (I was surprised.)

January 7, 2005 at 07:33 AM · Hehe. Scott, I just asked you about that performance in another thread. I was wondering if you'd come to that conclusion! (You shouldn't have been surprised!)

Lisa

January 7, 2005 at 07:31 AM · I think I had heard the nerves thing too, but I can't quite remember the source of that. In any case, I'm sure just about every player suffered / suffers from them, it's how they are handled that makes the difference. Although definitely some suffer more than others.

I've just been listening to samples from that set I have just ordered. His Mozart is amazing and worth the cost of the set for that alone.

There is a really nice live recording on CD of Grumiaux from the Besancon Festival that I must get one of these days.

January 7, 2005 at 07:35 AM · >Scott, I just asked you about that performance in another thread.<

Where, where??? I'll run to it.

January 7, 2005 at 07:41 AM · >I think I had heard the nerves thing too, but I can't quite remember the source of that. In any case, I'm sure just about every player suffered / suffers from them, it's how they are handled that makes the difference. Although definitely some suffer more than others.<

This would make a very good new thread for somebody to start!

January 7, 2005 at 07:58 AM · There is an absolute mountain of stuff in the forum archives on that if you want to have a look through.

January 7, 2005 at 08:36 AM · You should try to get ahold of the complete Mozart Sonatas for Vln and Piano with Grumiaux and Walter Klein (a renowned Mozartean). I don't know if you can still get them. I had them all years ago and think I gave them away! Darn!

Lisa

January 7, 2005 at 05:19 PM · one of my favorites his mozart is a treasure as is his chamber recordings and much more, he is so exprssive and is easily one of the most important violinists of the 20th c

some of his recordings are a little dull but there are some recordings that totally floor me, the faure sonatas for example

January 7, 2005 at 05:31 PM · He was certainly (along with Szeryng and Goldberg) one of the outstanding exponents of Mozart in the 20th century. His Bach is also outstanding. He may not have been the best at any of these, but he was certainly up there.

January 9, 2005 at 02:02 AM · I just bought a cd of his with the Brahms and the Bruch. Colin Davis is conducting the Brahms with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. Heinz Wahlberg is conducting the Bruch. Both are great performances, but I need to listen to them more to compare them to other recordings I have. Has anyone else heard these?

January 9, 2005 at 02:29 PM · Hi,

I am a huge Grumiaux fan on recording. There is a long list of stuff that is great. IMHO please try to get any sonata recordings that he did. He was a marvelous chamber musician, and they are pretty much all great. Musts aside from the Mozart sonatas, are the Beethoven sonatas with Clara Haskil. A classic. The Mozart concertos are also a must.

As for the Paganini, I think that it is a question of conception. Grumiaux viewed Paganini more as belonging to the second half of the Classical period then as a pure romantic. I think that was his interprative choice, and an interesting one.

Cheers!

January 9, 2005 at 02:52 PM · for me it was the bloch on the dvd was really gushingly expressive, a small taste of what he is capable of

January 9, 2005 at 04:15 PM · Grumiaux's Bach is my absolute favorite! His playing is clean and dramatic without being overally "romantic". It's definitely a benchmark for these works.

January 9, 2005 at 04:24 PM · Again, I want to thank all of you for updating my slim knowledge of Grumiaux. I'm about to max-out my credit card on some of these suggestions.

I would give my eye-teeth to have all of you hear this out-of-print Brahms/Haitink. I have heard part of the Grumiax Brahms that IS available and it's not as good, but I have ordered it anyway.

January 9, 2005 at 08:24 PM · I have been talking through my hat. And I don't wear a hat. The magnificent Brahms is conducted by Van Buenum, not Haitink. Anyway, it is still unavaliable.

HOWEVER! There are several vinyls of it available on eBay. Snooze, lose.

January 9, 2005 at 10:02 PM · All I know is that his Paganini isn't very impressive or exciting - quite bland...I'd stick with his recordings of Bach, Mozart etc...

January 9, 2005 at 10:23 PM · i love the grumiaux paganini recording and the other violin/piano stuff on that cd

what i like about him is he has so many different kinds of vibrato (like oistrakh)

many violinists only have one vibrato ive noticed

January 11, 2005 at 03:42 PM · To me, Grumiaux is one of the greatest violinists of the first half of the 20th century (approximately). Based strictly on recordings, I'd rank him with Oistrakh, Szeryng, and a few others (I don't want to start a war here). Personally, I've never heard anything by him that was less than excellent. And the range of repertoire he covered is second to none. His unaccompanied Bach, Brahms sonatas & concerto, and Saint-Saens showpieces are all among the best ever. And I'd say his recording of the Stravinsky concerto is THE best I've ever heard. It's available on a Philips Duo CD with a lot of other great Stravinsky at a bargain price. Run to get it if you haven't heard it (and if you like the Stravinsky concerto).

January 12, 2005 at 07:51 AM · Among the very best in the last 100 years, with distintive approach to Bach/Mozart/Brahms. Patrician style, like the finest Burgundy wine.

January 12, 2005 at 03:37 PM · Yes, yes, yes!

January 13, 2005 at 12:30 AM · I really like Grumiaux' Mozart concerti which he

He was admirably suited to Bach and Mozart etc but was not a fingerboard technician like Kogan so his Paganini plays most elegantly and expressively.

doesn't come across as well.

You have to appreciate Grumiaux for what he was - a refined interpreter of the classics and the non-bravura works.

January 13, 2005 at 03:39 PM · You obviously haven't heard him play the Intro. & Rondo Cap.

January 13, 2005 at 04:16 PM · Wanna un-confuse me on your answer, Terry?

January 13, 2005 at 06:32 PM · Scott, my comment was in response to the previous posting by David Lillis, who said that Grumiaux isn't distinguished in his performances of bravura works. In fact, he was a superb virtuoso who gave first-rate performances of everything from Bach to Mozart to Saint-Saens to Berg to Stravinsky.

This discussion board is kind of odd -- it doesn't tie a response to the specific posting it's responding to. So you have to use the "Read all previous" responses link to see what I'm responding to.

January 13, 2005 at 07:53 PM · Grumiaux is one of my favorites. Absolutely the best Mozart playing I have ever heard. Those and his Bach Unaccompanied works are the only easy-to-find recordings right now, but be sure to hear the Bach accompanied sonatas - also BEAUTIFUL.

A story about his "non-bravura" style: His was the first recording I ever heard of Symphonie Espagnole; it also had the Saint-Saens Intro & Rondo. I thought they were fun, but I had no IDEA they were supposed to be difficult until I heard other violinists (at least as famous) try to play them.

His Beethoven concerto (1961) with the Philharmonia and Alceo Galliera is untouchable. I have never been able to find it on CD, though.

January 13, 2005 at 08:43 PM · Elegant, precise, perfect intonation, ideal for Mozart. But to my taste, a thin sound and it was cold,cold and cold again. I´m used to the russian-jewish soul and the galic coldness doesent mean nothing to me.

January 13, 2005 at 10:23 PM · Something went wrong with my previous posting. It should have read as follows:

I really like Grumiaux' Mozart concerti which he played most expressively and elegantly.

He was admirably suited to Bach and Mozart etc but was not a fingerboard technician like Kogan so his Paganini

doesn't come across as well.

You have to appreciate Grumiaux for what he was - a refined interpreter of the classics and the non-bravura works.

I stand by my opinions of Grumiaux' playing. Each of the virtuosi had/has his or her own strengths and you should enjoy the best of what they produce. I'd far rather hear Kogan on Paganini and Sarasate, Heifetz on some of the big concerti, but Mozart and Bach were Grumiaux' fortes in which he was the equal of anyone.

January 14, 2005 at 05:52 PM · David - I have to admit that, although his Symphonie Espagnole was flawless, I found Kyung-Wha Chung's recording much more exciting just because you could hear her struggling a little bit with the notes. The fact that she got everything but it cost her an effort made you (well, me anyway) want to cheer "You go, girl!"

January 14, 2005 at 10:17 PM · Hi,

That is interesting as a take. I like the Grumiaux recording for the opposite reason. You forget the notes because they will not be an issue, and concentrate only on the music. Two different thoughts I guess...

Cheers!

January 15, 2005 at 06:37 AM · Actually my preference varies with my mood. Sometimes I want to hear the struggle and the victory; sometimes I just want to hear the piece played well.

January 15, 2005 at 10:06 PM · You will find no greater recording of the Bach Solo 6 than Arthur's!

January 15, 2005 at 11:51 PM · Well, I did found one: first Szering on Odyssey-Columbia

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