P1271. ROBERT CASADESUS, w.Paray Cond. Detroit S.O.: Piano Concerto #2 in B-flat (Brahms), Live Performance, 10 Nov., 1960; ROBERT CASADESUS & ZINO FRANCESCATTI: Violin Sonata in g (Debussy), Live Performance, 30 June, 1963, Divonne-les-bains, France. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-557. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"During his lengthy and accomplished career, Robert Casadesus was known primarily for his recordings of Mozart piano concertos and his performances of French repertoire, though he also made highly regarded versions of the Beethoven violin sonatas with his frequent collaborator, violinist Zino Francescatti, and of the Bach multiple keyboard concertos with his wife Gaby and son Jean. However, the Brahms Piano Concerto #2 was also one of his repertoire staples, and this release now marks the third live performance by him of the work to appear on CDs. This previously unissued 1960 reading with Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony is in many ways similar to, but overall an improvement on, the 1956 Montreux performance. The Detroit Symphony is markedly the superior orchestra, though its principal cellist does not have the emotional intensity of his French counterpart. All of the movements here are slightly brisker than in 1956 at Montreux. Casadesus' playing in all instances is quintessentially French, and not the norm that one hears from the Germanic, Russian, and American pianists who dominate the discography for this work. His touch is far lighter, with little use of pedal; his tone is chiseled, rather than weighty and rounded; trills and rapid passagework are dispatched with crystalline clarity. Perhaps due to more favorable miking or a different instrument or both, his playing in Detroit sounds considerably less percussive.
Francescatti and Casadesus made a justly famed recording of the Debussy Violin Sonata for Columbia in 1946, with excellent sound for its time. This live performance from 1963 is interpretively almost identical, but superior in execution, being at once more impassioned and yet also more refined. That it is absoluely idiomatic and authoritative goes without saying. The sound quality is also better, less dry and more resonant. Though here too it is somewhat recessed - once again, remastering could have addressed this by bringing it more forward - in this case an easy solution is simply to turn up the volume.
As usual, St. Laurent Studio provides only track and timing information, dates and places of the performances, and archival photos of the performers, but no booklet notes. To fans of Casadesus, Francescatti, Paray, and the Detroit Symphony alike, this release is cordially recommended."
- James A. Altena, FANFARE
"Zino Francescatti was a musician's musician who won over audiences more by charm than prowess. His unmistakably French manner was out of vogue in an era-dominated by Russian-trained violinists, but so much the better for him. He was trained by his father, a concertmaster in Marseilles, and performed in the Straram Orchestra of Paris before coming late to a career as a soloist and chamber musician. He was not the last French violinist standing, though in the 1950s it could seem that way.
While his repertoire was wide, Francescatti's recordings naturally emphasized French music, where he figures as a latter-day Jacques Thibaud. He has the same rich, dark tone; but while his phrasing is also very lyrical, it tends to be more tempered and neoclassical. This seems more of a generational difference than anything else."
- David Radcliffe, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2012
"Everything about Francescatti's approach to every piece he plays is unique. He does not follow any 'school' of interpretation, and the only similarities that I noticed from piece to piece is that he is an impeccable violinist, and as a musician he stretches the boundaries of expression while always playing with exquisite taste. There is something regal about his playing, and at the same time there is a deep sense of musical integrity - a kind of moral directive from within that compels him to play beautifully and honestly for the sake of the music and the sacred nature of the performance."
- Elaine Fine, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2006