This CD contained some very pleasant surprises. My only previous experience of Arturo Delmoni's playing came with his guest appearance on a previous JMR release. The playing was good, not exceptional, and in no way prepared me for the excellence of this recital. Throughout the new JMR disc, Delmoni's violin tone is sweet and his intonation secure. Technically, he is beyond reproach, keeping the listener's interest by digging deep into his bag of tricks to vary his style and tone. Not an easy feat. As such, both the Brahms 1st Sonata in G Major and the Sonata in A minor of American, Amy Beach, are superb performances.
Musically, the disc is very satisfying. After countless hearings, Delmoni's musicianship continued to shine through, leading this listener on various emotional journeys. At times, a relaxed style was highlighted, and at others, a more declamatory style was projected. All experiences were highly effective in conveying the genius of Brahms and the insouciance of Amy Beach.
Brahms' Sonata No. 1 in G Major is, by any standards, a magnificent achievement. It is, for the most part, autumnal in feeling, and Delmoni's sensitive playing suggests this throughout. Interestingly, Delmoni slips in some effective portamento to remind us of Brahms' Zigeuner style. Delmoni and Funahashi continued their high standard with the Beach performance. At first, I thought the pairing of Brahms and Beach strange, but after a few minutes with the A minor Sonata, the feelings were put to rest. The coupling of the Brahms and Beach sonatas was an inspired idea. Both pieces are truly complimentary. Thus, the Sonata in A minor, while not quite the equal of Brahms, can certainly stand comparison.
The Amy Beach piece is a real find. Romantic in style, the music maintains a cheerful nature and is influenced lightly by Brahms, Franck and Dvorák. Along with other contemporary New Englanders like George Chadwick and Edward MacDowell, Amy Beach's music has yet to find the mainstream. Hopefully, Mr. Delmoni's wonderful performance will help to promote her. He makes a compelling case for the piece becoming a staple of the violin repertoire.
Delmoni is accompanied most effectively by Yuri Funahashi. Her playing does not extinguish from memory Daniel Barenboim's magisterial efforts while accompanying violinist Pinchas Zukerman (DGG 415 989-2). She does, however, add to the cause of some wonderful music making. There are many recordings of the complete Brahms' violin sonatas that warrant audition, but I return again and again to Zukerman's early performance on DGG. He is, for me, a consummate artist, with a tone ideally suited to the gentle undulations of Brahms' great music. That Delmoni compares favorably with one of the great recordings of the First Sonata, is no mean accomplishment. Your best bet, acquire both.
The recording, as I have found with all of JMR releases, is first class. In fact, all the JMR releases I have come across are produced superbly. In this case, the soloist is miked closely, giving a warm and cozy feeling to the proceedings. Happily, Delmoni's playing fears no such scrutiny. Subtle shifts in tone and dynamic are captured clearly, which helps to highlight a demonstration of the best in chamber music style. Mr. Delmoni's violin is placed slightly left, with his sensitive partner placed mid-stage center in the Church of the Holy Trinity, New York. The soundstage this space provides is ideal. As the recording was sourced from outside the JMR house, owner John Marks turned to the venerable Bob Ludwig for remastering duties. As expected, a superb job is given.
In light of such recorded evidence, I want to hear more from Arturo Delmoni. A lot more. He is a musician of taste and refinement, and experiencing such has given much pleasure. Highly recommended.
Copyright©Anthony Kershaw, 1997