Camilla Wicks
                                                                            Legendary violinist of the Golden Age

Reviews


Bloch "Nigun", live in Los Angeles 1950

 

 

Some Concert Reviews:
"Wicks [possessed] a white hot temperament and interpretative X-ray vision" Philadelphia Enquirer, 2000

“Wicks seemed a source of intensity…[She has] a musically compelling way of keeping the tone alive and moving within a phrase, of directing the phrase forward consequentially. You can’t wait to see how it’s going to come out...Wicks’s tone itself is smooth, strong, interesting and vital…[She] made the line keep reaching forward, her bowing seamless, the phrases always aspiring. She has the gift of song.”  San Francisco Chronicle, 1986


" One of the notable characteristics was the way she had the individual feel of each composer...Wicks seemed to lose herself in all these works [the programme included works by Platti, Brahms, Bach, Milhaud, Brustad, Khachaturian, Paganini], which is always the sign of intense communication." New York Times, 1955

“Possesses, besides strong musical and technical attitudes, the indefinable something we call personality, which makes what she re-creates arresting.” New York Post, 1954

" By turns introspective, hectic and almost barbarically splendid...the artist was able to project all [Bloch's Sonata] shifting moods and tonal colors [of] this overpoweringly rich and varied work." New York Times, 1954

“A violin phenomenon. Belongs among the great.” De Tijd, Amsterdam, 1953
 

“She brought vibrant tone, commanding style, emotion, drama, nuance and technical dazzlement. Above all, she played with purpose and insight and musical knowledge.” Los Angeles Examiner, 1953

"Wicks displayed a magnificent temperament...sensitivity, lyricism, fire all combine in an irresistible dynamism" Le Monde, France, 1948

 

 

 

 

 

Some CD Reviews:
 

 

INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW  Nigel Simeone

Among records of violin concertos, few are more legendary than Camilla Wicks's 1952 Sibelius recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Sixten Ehrling conducting the Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra. Cherished as of the EMI-Toshiba Great Recordings of the Century on LP, it has now been released on CD by Biddulph. From the outset this is a magical performance, Wicks finding just the right sound for the opening and being completely on top of the works's virtuoso demands. This is a recording where the soloist's individuality is always apparent but it also seems to capture the very essence of Sibelius too.The slow movement is superb, with Wicks producing playing of extraordinary expressive power, and the finale is thrilling, with superb rhythmic control. This has been my favourite recording of the Sibelius for many years and I'm genuinely delighted to see it released on CD for what is the first time in the West. The Biddulph couplings are highly enterprising: the Violin Conceerto by Fartein Valen with the Oslo Philharmonic under Oivin Fjeldstad and a splendid collection of miniatures.[...]This disc is a superb celebration of Wicks's artistry: with sound that has been very well remastered and fascinating notes, it deserves the greatest possible success.


DIAPASON Jean-Michel Molkhou

For aeons impossible to find, this recording of the Sibelius Concerto imposed itself since its first release as one of the most perfect ever made. In 1952 it made famous Camilla Wicks, a still unknown American violinist who retired from the concert stage a few years later to devote herself to her family before turning to teaching. The Capitol LP has become one of the most prized by collectors: it is finally restored to us, in an excellent transfer, enabling one to realise that despite all the many recordings made since, this one has kept all of its power. Camilla Wicks and Sixten Ehrling had found the ideal balance of fervour, darkness [literally “blackness] dreaminess and mystery. Carried by immaculate virtuosity, the colours and textures with which the violinist plays irresistibly evoke the light of the North and its infinite expanses.

It is coupled with the rare concerto by the Norwegian composer Fartein Valen (1887-1952), a pupil of Bruch’s, of which Wicks’s was the first recording. And to conclude a few miniatures, some never before released. One will savour in particular the mischievous playfulness of Wicks in the four Preludes of Shostakovich, her poignant inspiration in Bloch’s Nigun and her acute sense of pulse in the pieces by Valle, Aguirre and Prokofiev arranged by Heifetz. 
This is a treasure.

CLASSICA REPERTOIRE  Xavier Rey

 Like some other women violinists born before WW II, Camilla Wicks did not have the success she deserved. Yet her few recordings reveal a temperament of fire, a subtlety of conception of the works of rare sharpness, a flawless technique. Born in California to parents of Norwegian origin, Camilla Wicks gives accounts of the Sibelius and Valen concertos of superb intensity and musicianship, taking incredible technical and interpretative risks. In the complimentary pieces accompanied at the piano by Sixten Ehrling, Camilla Wicks displays a style full of brilliance and panache.




AUDITION AUDIOPHILE  Gary Lemco

 For many collectors, the inscription of the Sibelius Violin Concerto (18 February 1952) for Capitol Records by Camilla Wicks (b. 1928) and Sixten Ehrling remains one of the pinnacles of interpretation of this sinewy masterpiece. Two other women, Ginette Neveu and Guila Bustabo, achieved wonders with this Northern virtuoso vehicle, but the Wicks balanced virtuoso flair with a highly subjective warmth that ranked it among the great versions with Heifetz, Oistrakh, and young Isaac Stern. Ehrling, too, was a natural Sibelius exponent, and his traversal of the Sibelius symphonies for Mercury Records needs to be restored to the active catalogue. After a hothouse Allegro moderato, the second movement, Adagio di molto, basks in a noble leisure that must be heard to define. Searching and poignant, the playing becomes feverish and yearning, with sighs and spasms of sound from the orchestra. The last movement is particularly earthy, the tympani parts complementing the violin's demented shrieks in harmonics - truly a gavotte and rhumba for polar bears. A rhythmic freedom is no less perceptible that ingratiates this monumental performance, beautifully restored by Ward Marston.

The Concerto for Violin by Fartein Valen (rec. 1949) has its premier inscription with Ojvind Fjeldstad. Cast in one large and one short movement, the piece has a rhapsodic feeling, but its syntax seems to owe much to the Violin Concerto by Alban Berg. Bartok may be an emotional kin. We tread through a dark, labyrinthine night, where the violin's plaint has horn and woodwind wails or grumblings surrounding it. A degree of surface swish intrudes on the proceedings. The cadenza rises up in eerie harmonics over a bluesy horn call. A repeated figure gives the movement a through-composed quality. The huge sigh fades into the distance.

 

The HMV accompanied pieces (rec. 1949-1951) with Erhling as pianist reveals - despite some tinny piano sound - real musical surprises. Nigun, for instance, has a zither effect in the piano that gives the violin even more of an antiquarian, Hebrew-prophet sensibility. The application of ritards is exquisite. The Kabalevsky Improvisation is new to me: is begins in gypsy style, solo; then the piano lays down a modal riff of some extension. From there, the two instruments join and make a fine arioso, lyrically sentimental, which rises to a passionate climax. Striking March from Prokofiev, rather dazzling. The mercurial set of Shostakovich pieces allows Wicks to indulge her capacity for lightly applied colors, her flute tone or spiccato, alternately winsome and brash. She plays No. 15 as an all-Soviet young workers' song. No. 16 has a bit of the devil in it, or at least Paganini. Mis-banded, the Age of Gold Polka is No. 13 on the disc, not No. 9: it savors the incisive and acerbic attack Wicks applies.

 

The last set of five previously unissued pieces for CBS does not credit the pianist. Sarasate's Malaguena from Spanish Dances, Op. 21 is a suave as anything Ricci did here (both were students of Persinger), crackly sound notwithstanding. Aguirre's Huella is in the Heifetz arrangement, a parlando serenade redolent of the Alhambra. Another Heifetz arrangement is Valle's Preludio XV, a repeated riff that takes on varied registrations and bowings, pizzicati, etc. Benjamin's From San Domingo begins like Kreisler's Caprice Viennois, but quickly becomes percussive and willful - wildly Caribbean. Finally, Stravinsky's piece for Samuel Dushkin, the delicate Pastorale in dreamy colors. Aristocratic playing always; but when Wicks cuts loose, the Queen, to quote Dylan Thomas, "can be had but not seen."




ALL MUSIC GUIDE   James Leonard


For most listeners, the great thing here will be the 1952 recording of Sibelius' Violin Concerto with soloist Camilla Wicks accompanied by Sixten Ehrling leading the Stockholm Radio Symphony. An American born in Long Beach, CA, of Norwegian stock, the young Wicks was so deeply, passionately, and completely under the skin of the concerto that a more sympathetic and exciting performance of the work is hard to imagine. For some listeners, though, the great thing here will be Wicks' performance of Fartein Valen's Violin Concerto recorded in 1949 with Oivin Fjeldstad conducting the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. [...] Wicks turns in a performance of fearless confidence and fierce concentration, a performance that may even convince at least some of the unconverted as to the virtues of Valen's austere yet lyrical atonal counterpoint. As a bonus for any listeners, Biddulph has included Wicks solo HMV recordings made between 1949 and 1951 with Ehrling at the piano -- her soulful Nigun by Bloch, her searing Improvisation by Kabalevsky, her hilarious March from The Love of Three Oranges by Prokofiev, and her dreamy performances of arrangements of four of Shostakovich's early Opus 34 Preludes, plus his Polka from his ballet The Age of Gold -- along with her five unissued Columbia recordings from 1951 with an unidentified accompanist -- including a tremendous Malagueña by Sarasate and a droll but delightful Pastorale by Stravinsky. Offered here in Biddulph's manifestly antique but clear enough for seasoned listeners sound, these performances belong on the shelf of any fan of twentieth century violinists.

 

 

 

 

 

 MUSICWEB-INTERNATIONAL  Jonathan Woolf 

 

Repitched and sounded splendid Biddulph once again features in my list with this tribute to Camilla Wicks. Hers is a performance of freely expressive emotion but the wisest architectural surety; and the collaboration with Sixten Ehrling ensures one of the most recommendable versions of the Sibelius ever recorded. With Valen’s pocket concerto and previously unissued sides this is a feast of Wicks.

 

There were three great commercial recordings of the Sibelius Concerto by women violinists in the decade between 1943 and 1952. The first was by Anja Ignatius in wartime Berlin (Symposium 1310). The second followed two years later when Ginette Neveu made her celebrated recording, one that has been multiply available over the years. And this is the third of the great triumvirate, happily restored to circulation. The slightly earlier 1940 Guila Bustabo traversal with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra and Fritz Zaun was on A Classical Record ARC37 and is also a stunner. Talking of which the hair-raising 1943 and very male Kulenkampff/Furtwängler on Music & Arts CD799 - try to hear it - was a live broadcast.

Wicks’s Sibelius is the stuff of legend. Absence from the catalogues has only increased enthusiasm for its return. And all three of these recordings bring powerfully different approaches to bear; the cool reserve of Ignatius, the fiery, digging-into-the-string passion of Neveu and Wicks’s expressive but not overblown drama, architecturally magnificent in its completeness.

She had the advantage of collaboration with Sixten Ehrling, with whom she gave numerous concerts. Ehrling also proves an adept and highly accomplished pianist in their more intimate recordings here. In the Concerto, with Ward Marston’s transfers that seem successfully to have stabilised pitch problems on earlier issues, we can savour their commanding strengths. The opening is full of the subtlest tonal colour. Orchestral counter themes register with naturalness and surety. The agitated little string figures that are often subsumed are here present as part of the living fabric of the orchestral life force of the music. In the slow movement we find Wicks melancholic without ostentation – no overtly externalised finger position changes or timbral disparities. She remains unaffectedly direct, and strongly moving. Power and momentum characterise the finale. Wicks is no metronome, of course, and her rubati are finely judged and thoroughly convincing. Personalised phrasing adds immeasurably to a performance that remains as laudable now as the day it was recorded.

Now Valen’s pocket concerto of 1940 is a real rarity. I’m not aware that it’s been reissued since 1949. A work of concision and immense power it owes a strong debt to the Berg in its accommodation with serialism. Only thirteen minutes in length, and that includes a cadenza, it manages to coalesce a tense, slightly clotted feel with more openly sprung lyric sections. The reappearance of the chorale-like them – finally on the brass – is a deeply moving one and adds to a feeling of lament and loss. For an up to date disc Arve Tellefsen has recorded the Valen on Sony Classical SK 89621, coupled with the 1997 Nordheim concerto.

The violin and piano pieces divide into the commercial HMV recordings with Ehrling recorded between 1949 and 1951 and unpublished Columbias with an unknown accompanist made in 1951. I assume this latter collection – five pieces – derives from Wicks’s own archive but as usual with Biddulph these days we get minimal discographic information.

Nigun has a burnished reserve – not as full of Hebraic fervour as many. Her Kabalevsky Improvisation is excellent at underscoring alternately its brittle and more reflective elements. The Shostakovich Preludes are in the familiar Tziganov arrangements – hear her silvery wit in the Tenth.

The unpublished pieces are a notable bonus. They’re in very slightly muffled sound but otherwise very presentable indeed. Her Sarasate is suave rather than dashing, and the pieces associated with Heifetz show a laid back charm. This represents a cache of real significance for the Wicks collector.

Talking of which collectors should not overlook a CD devoted to rare Wicks material - Music & Arts 1160 which contains a broadcast performance of the finale of the Sibelius, coupled with a splendid Bruno Walter directed Beethoven Concerto. There are other important things here as well, including Nigun





          



INTERNATIONAL CLASSICAL RECORD COLLECTOR   Duncan Druce


[2008] sees Camilla Wicks's 80th birthday, so these discs are a timely reminder of a remarkable artist...On both CDs we hear how natural a violinist Wicks is, how she really enjoys playing. As a soloist, she has an unmistakable presence; her tone, strong yet always refined, is supported by a characteristic vibrato that never impairs the purity of her sound. A well-organised, secure technical foundation allows her to play with boldness and dash. Best of all, when these recordings were made in her early 20s, she was already a mature artist - tone, emphasis and articulation constantly varied in response to the music. Valen's Concerto, for instance, with its atonal idiom, must have seemed a challenging work in the 1940s; yet Wicks is thoroughly at home, bringing out the intense lyricism and the delicacy of the dance-like episodes. She is helped by high-class, well-balanced support from the Oslo orchestra.
The Stocholm RSO does her proud, too, in the Sibelius - Ehrling underlines the score's sombre, atmospheric qualities without any loss of clarity. The Sibelius was a Wicks speciality; she had played it at her Carnegie Hall debut in 1946 and her interpretation was much admired by the composer. Like most violinists of her generation, she is a very 'clean' player, passing up many opportunities for expressive slides, but more than making up for this through her command of an unusually wide tonal range. Though her tempos for the brilliant passages in the outer movements are slower than Heifetz's, her strong, propulsive rhythmic sense results in a performance that is just as exciting.
A similar intense commitment, along with an ability to project the musical line over a long span, informs her playing of Bloch's Nigun. The Bloch and the last movement of the Sibelius were both played on a May 1950 Standard Music Hour broadcast in California. These recordings sound close and airless, with the violin fiercely spot-lit, and the orchestra in the Sibelius does not show the same finesse as on the Swedish recording. But Wicks triumphantly survives the microphone's close scrutiny; the Sibelius is driven with youhful verve, and though the Bloch lacks the precise ensemble of the version with piano [on the Biddulph disc], it gains in expansive expression. A few weeks later, Wicks broadcast the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Concerto in the same series, with a similarly boxy sound and, again, workmanlike rather than inspired orchestral support. Hers, though, is an immensely spirited performance, demonstrating a magnificent sense of line. The solo before the cadenza is especially sparkling, and in the cadenza itself her timing is impeccable.
[In the] 1953 Beethoven performance...clearly Walter and Wicks had an excellent rapport - the first movement tempo is particularly well judged. Wicks's clear tone and lively expressive style, alongside notably refined orchestral playing, ensure a most enjoyable performance - just missing, perhaps, the grandeur and sustained intensity of the greatest recorded accounts.
Of the short itms on the Biddulph disc, the Russian pieces, beautifully recorded by HMV and with magnificent accompaniments by Sixten Ehrling, are characterised with startling vividness. The sound on thr Columbia discs is not quite as clear, but Wicks produces a lovely soft tone in the Stravinsky, and obvioulsy relishes the sensuous Latin styles of the other items.
These discs, and especially the Biddulph, are a must for lovers of fine violin playing.









THE STRAD  Julian Haylock 

Camilla Wicks was one of the most formidable violin prodigies of the last century.[...] A devoted family woman (she was heavily pregnant when she recorded this 1953 account of the Beethoven and now has five children), she retired from the concert platform a few years later until 1966, after which her public appearances were sdly few but nonetheless cherishable.
Listening to these immaculately transferred recordings there can be little doubt that Wicks was an exceptional artist. There are only a handful pf players who have truly excelled at the beethoven Concerto [...] and on this evidence Wicks also deserves a place at the high table. Her purity of intonation, effortles technique, ringing tone and impregnable command of this strangely elusive score compel as much now as they did half a century ago when this spellbinding account was recorded live in Carnegie hall.
The other items (all radio recordings) date from 1950 and are no less formidable. Wit crystal-clear dotted rhythms and demonic upward staccato thirds that are spot on, Wicks tears fearlessly into the finale of the Sibelius Concerto in a way that that possesses a thrilling physical abandon redolent of Stern. The Tchaikovsky also carries a high electric charge, the glorious second subject soaringly intense rather than indulged luxuriously. This a worthy celebration of a truly remarkable player.



ALL MUSIC GUIDE  James Leonard 

 

Camilla Wicks had it all -- a blazing technique, a radiant tone plus a compelling interpretative point of view [...] As this recording shows, at the time Wicks was at the peak of her prodigious abilities: her command, her control, her power, her passion, her clear, shining tone are all gloriously in evidence [...] The two performances from three years earlier -- radio broadcasts of the finale of Sibelius' Concerto and the opening movement of Tchaikovsky's Concerto -- are equally fine and show what a daredevil virtuoso Wicks could be. Best of all is Wicks' performance of Bloch's Nigun, an astoundingly accomplished and astonishingly reckless performance. Music & Arts' transfer is likewise as good as it could be and reveals Wicks at her best. Anyone who loves great violin playing will enjoy this disc.

 

 

 

CLASSICAL NET  Raymond Tuttle

 

Because she made relatively few commercial recordings, not many remember Camilla Wicks today. (Also, it is easy for violin-fanciers to be distracted by the likes of Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Yehudi Menuhin, and Zino Francescatti.) This new release, derived from radio broadcasts in 1950 and 1953, supports the claim that she was worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned male colleagues.

Wicks was born in 1928. [...] She was a child prodigy, and she studied with the great Louis Persinger at Juilliard when she was ten years old. Later she studied with Henri Temianka. Her New York City debut came in 1942, and her official Carnegie Hall debut came in 1946. She toured Europe, and earned Sibelius' approval for her interpretation of his violin concerto. Wicks retired to raise a family when she was in her early thirties – just when record companies might have snatched her up. She returned to concertizing in 1966, but her performances from that time on were intermittent, although she acquired a reputation as a formidable chamber musician, and also as a teacher, most recently at the San Francisco Conservatory.

The Beethoven concerto, played with conductor Bruno Walter in New York City on February 15, 1953, receives a glorious performance. (Apparently Wicks was visibly pregnant at the time!) She plays with entirely appropriate classical purity and attention to both form and tone. If a Greek goddess could play the violin, it would sound like this. She plays the Kreisler cadenzas in the first and third movements. In 1953, Walter's conducting was not nearly as cozy as it would become in the following decade, when he made his series of "Indian summer" recordings with the so-called Columbia Symphony Orchestra. In fact, Walter is surprisingly volatile here, although never outside of reasonable stylistic bounds. Together, they make "beautiful music," as the cliché goes. This is one of the best performances of the Beethoven I've ever heard.

The other performances remind us of an age when corporate underwriting was more obvious: the "Standard Symphony Orchestra" alludes to Standard Oil! Wicks plays Nigun with passionate intensity, without losing control over the music. In the Sibelius, one can hear why the composer was so enthusiastic over this young woman. The Tchaikovsky movement was broadcast a few months later (July 16, 1950) with Arthur Fiedler on the podium – an example of him not conducting the Boston "Pops"! [...] Again, Wicks' classy playing is a model of how to keep even familiar music interesting and exciting without resorting to trickery or obvious effects. Granted, these are live recordings, and there are technical faults, but they are very minor, and I hear nothing to suggest that Wicks' technique was inferior, overall, to that of any of her famous male colleagues. There is no doubt as to the excellence of her total musicianship.

The sound of these recordings is very fine for the period. No one but the most tender-eared listeners will be distracted by the minor amounts of noise and other sonic artifacts.

 

 

 

 AUDITION AUDIOPHILE  Gary Lemco  

Born a generation after the golden age of violinists, Camilla Wicks (b. 1928) studied with her musician parents and then went on to work with Louis Persinger, the master who influenced Menuhin, Bustabo and Ricci. Emphazing beauty of tone, color, and projection of expression, Persinger refined Wicks’s style, as did a brief period of study with Henri Temianka. In her early teens Wicks was already a seasoned artist, capable of playing the Saint-Saens B Minor Concerto and the Glazunov A Minor with efficiency and polish. By 1942, Wicks made her lifelong association with the Sibelius Concerto, whose recording in 1952 with Sixten Ehrling was destined to become a classic collectors’ item. "Mr. Ehrling was wonderful," offered Wicks. "Some had criticized him as being intolerant and authoritiarian, but I felt he simply would not put up with shoddy musicianship. He knew what he wanted. The performance is being reissued, with its pitch distortions adjusted. Ehrling was recording the Sibelius symphonies in the hall; and in the course of the day, the acoustic would shift, and my notes came out somewhat flat."

In several respects, Wicks’s career began to parallel that of her contemporary Ginette Neveu, but without the tragedy. A combination of dash and dynamism, wedded to a fine technique and a piercing, sweet tone made her performances quite irresistible to auditors.

The 15 February 1953 collaboration on the Beethoven Concerto with Bruno Walter brings us a high-flown performance, often ablaze with passion and conviction, with the Kreisler cadenza plied in a bravura fashion. "He took the Beethoven at his own tempo, which was quite brisk," offered Wicks in our telephone interview. "I had imagined the piece in just this way, so I loved it." For the performance Wicks projects a visceral, eloquent violin part, both impetuous and soulful. Audience communication with the soloist is quite palpable as the intensity mounts here and in the 1950 Standard Hour Tchaikovsky collaboration with Fiedler and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. No less impassioned is the movement from Baal Shem, Nigun taped 28 May 1950, again with John Barnett. The declamatory, weaving incantations and the expressive ardor of the meditation reach astonishing heights without sacrificing the dignity of the occasion.

The Tchaikovsky movement has a taut incandescence, keeping one slightly off balance emotionally with the dazzling fioritura of the display and uncanny, quick finger work. Her high flute-tone can be quite effective, even eerie, as it is in the Sibelius excerpt. No less intriguing to collectors should be the Simax issue (PSC 1185) of live concerts (1968, 1985) of the Walton Concerto and Brustad Fourth Concerto, the latter with Herbert Blomstedt.



 

 

 

 

 



 MUSICWEB-INTERNATIONAL  Jonathan Woolf

This is a disc that serves two invaluable functions. Firstly, rather more prosaically, it’s volume three in Simax’s Great Norwegian Performers 1945-2000 series. And secondly it stands as a royal salute to the great Camilla Wicks, in this, her eightieth year. 
 
One of the best recent discs devoted to her was issued by Biddulph but there really can’t be enough. And this is where Simax is proving so invaluable, reminding us of Wicks’s importance as an artist. I have also an earlier Simax release of her Walton concerto and Bjarne Brustad’s Violin Concerto No. 4.
 
The Glazunov Concerto and The Lark Ascending derive from the same 1985 concert in which she was accompanied by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Karsten Andersen. It would have been fascinating to have heard her Glazunov in the 1950s when she made her splendid recording of the Sibelius, now on Biddulph, when she was at her most fervent tonally. Her playing with the Bergen orchestra is nevertheless tremendously attractive; unforced, unpressed tempo-wise, taking twenty-one minutes in a work that, say, Heifetz and Milstein tended to dispatch in eighteen to eighteen and a half. This is playing that is subtly tinted and voiced though it can’t be denied that her vibrato has slackened. The highlight is probably the lightly elegant finale. As a footnote don’t be misled by the mis-tracking in the Andante; the return to the tempo primo seems to have confused someone which accounts for a separately tracked cadenza.
 
The Lark Ascending is not played, as so often by virtuosi, as an opportunity for soupy expression and succulent reserves of vibrato. The recording is quite close and once or twice Wicks’s intonation buckles and we don’t get therefore the ideal sense of space or perspective; as a result the lark is still in close focus as it ascends – no recession skywards. The single movement from Brahms’ Op.78 sonata is with Robert Levin in 1975. It’s very laidback indeed, lyrical and introspective, not quite embracing torpor, though there are hints of her more fiery Sibelian temperament from time to time. A pity about the lack of the rest – were the other movements recorded? Then there’s Brustad’s solo violin sonata, written for her, and played here in 1969. Brustad alludes to Bach – to the Chaconne as much as anything else from the Sonatas and Partitas – and crafts a most delightful and freewheeling work. There are plenty of introspective vistas, as well as vigorous folk-like moments too – try the second half of the second movement. With its reach extending from vibrant naturalness and contrapuntal reflection perhaps Brustad has summoned up something of the violinist’s own spirit – elemental yet expressive.  As an envoi we go right back to 1950. Once more Levin is on hand to accompany in Sarasate’s Malagueña. She recorded this at around the same time for Columbia with an unnamed accompanist – this and other sides surfaced on the Biddulph CD. This NRK radio broadcast is in better sound and features some fine, teasing rubati and rich tone.
 
There are some excellent photographs in the concise booklet notes. There must be many more Wicks broadcasts in the NRK archives and this writer cries out for a series sub-division to celebrate her art yet further. 
  
                                    


 

 

MUSICWEB -INTERNATIONAL Jonathan Woolf

In the light of Simax’s recent release devoted to Camilla Wicks – Glazunov and Vaughan Williams included – it’s appropriate to consider this earlier disc, one that pairs a Concerto of Bjarne Brustad, his Fourth, with Walton’s. They were recorded many years apart – the Brustad in 1968 and the Walton in 1985.
This is the most unusual performance of the Walton I’ve ever heard. It’s not simply a matter of speed, though it must be among the slowest on record, so much as the sense of tragedy that lies behind the playing. Firstly then it’s not unreasonable to consider the question of tempo relationships. The biggest discrepancy lies in the finale, which takes fifteen minutes. Great interpreters of the past – Heifetz, Senofsky and Francescatti, the first two with the composer conducting – agreed on 11:20 to 11:50. More to the point so did the composer. Wicks is also two minutes slower than Heifetz and Senofsky in the first movement and a minute and a half slower in the capricious central movement. The effect of this is to change almost completely the character of the music.
Wicks plays with refinement and control but the first movement transitions can sound excessive. Her silvery, no longer fiery tone, brings a certain aloofness, not the kind of luscious Mediterranean warmth that others seek. What she does find is an incipient vein of tragedy, of loss. The alla napolitana second movement is more Pierrot than devilish attaca. And the deliberate tread of the finale hardly honours the Vivace marking, though it too brings an unsettling sense of grievance and introspection. In all it’s a most diverting, really rather unsettling experience listening to Wicks’s Walton – rather like catching a usually avuncular friend weeping.
 
The companion work is Brustad’s strenuous, engaging but not overly memorable Fourth Concerto. Wicks was an advocate of Brustad’s music – we have performances on disc to attest to the fact – and as a viola player himself Brustad writes adeptly for the violin.  It was actually premiered by Ernst Glaser, another fiddle player that Simax has celebrated, though when Wicks came to perform it she fortunately did so with the same orchestra and orchestra as had done the honours for Glaser, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Herbert Blomstedt. In some of his solo works for violin Brustad fused Bachian precepts with an earthy folkloric sense; here there is plenty of versatile work for the soloist, not least in the first movement cadenza, and in the Shostakovich-like moments of the finale. But the best music resides in the urgently lyrical writing of the Andante, which Wicks plays with especial warmth and total concentration on purity of expression.
 
This is another diverting release, one that will strongly appeal to Wicks’ many admirers. She recorded neither of these works commercially so the expansion of her discography is only to be welcomed – not least because of her musical association with Brustad and the introspective light she sheds on the Walton.
  

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 




  

 

 






 

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