Recording of June 1988: Songs My Mother Taught Me
Arturo Delmoni, violin; Meg Bachman Vas, piano
Kreisler: Tempo di Menuetto; Brahms: Hungarian Dance No.1; Valdez: Gypsy Serenade; Paradis: Sicilienne; Sarasate: Romanza Andaluza; Massenet: Meditation; Tartini: Variations on a Theme of Corelli; Smetana: From the Home Country; Gluck: Melodie; Vieuxtemps: Romance "Desespoir"; Faure: Apres Un Reve; D'Ambrosio: Canzonetta; Mendelssohn: Song Without Words ("May Breeze"); Kreisler: Sicilienne et Rigaudon; Dvorak: Songs My Mother Taught Me
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFCD 877 (CD), North Star DS 0004 (LP, footnote 1). David Hancock, eng.; Bruce Foulke, prod. A-D. TT: 52:51
Here, at last, is one huge exception to the "Rule": an outstanding musical performance superbly recorded. Songs My Mother Taught Me is the product of a love affair between violinist Arturo Delmoni and the almost defunct practice of programming only short pieces in recitals. Delmoni's aim was to recreate that lost practice, and the result is stunning.
The musicianship here is densely compassionate. The recording is the finest I have ever heard in the small-ensemble category. It easily surpasses the Francesco Trio's Dvorak effort on Wilson and has an unequivocal edge on the Mayorga/Steinhardt collaboration on Sheffield. It is, in short, an answer to the prayers of the music lover/audiophile.
Delmoni may not be a household name, but his playing is a tribute to his teachersJascha Heifetz, Josef Gingold, and Nathan Milstein. There could be no finer pedigree, and if this recording is an indication, Delmoni may be on his way to joining their ranks.
He has chosen 15 works ranging in playing time from 2:35 to 4:52. They are all from the Romantic repertoire, and, as presented here, make up far more than a collection of encore crowd-pleasers.
Delmoni eschews the pyrotechnics that dazzle in favor of a warm lyricism that, through its judicious musicianship, lets the music stand on its own. There is no cheap virtuosity hereDelmoni's bow is a rapier, not a broadsword. The showmanship often employed in such pieces as these is replaced with what comes across as a loving respect for music over technique. Don't misunderstandthere's plenty of technique here, but it isn't the reason Delmoni recorded this album.
From the brightness of the Sarasate to the darkness of the Gluck to the turmoil of the Vieuxtemps, the music comes across as unfailingly right. Delmoni is a musician of sensitivity and power.
Accompanist Meg Bachman Vas is of similar temperament. Some other recordings of these works put the pianist in a more prominent role. But, like Delmoni, Vas seems intent on presenting the music, not herself, and in doing so speaks profusely for her own skills and taste.
The recording gets it all down in almost startling fidelity. A Studer A80 and Cambridge C35 microphones were used in New York City's Church of the Holy Trinity. There was no equalization or noise reduction in the chain.
The music simply is there in timbre, ensemble, and ambience. You hear the wood of the violin and the horsehair of the bow; you hear the piano sounding boardnot in the garish detail of a close-miked job, but in the lush bloom of the concert hall. It isn't the real thing right there in your listening room, but it's about as close as we've come so far.
All of these attributes are slightly more pronounced in the LP format, especially the ambience. The CD, by comparison, seems to box up the soundstage, but that is its most severe shortcoming.
This is a recording to own whether you have a Japanese rack system or a no-limits-known setup. Both playing and sound are among the best you will ever have heard.Robert Hesson
Footnote 1: The Mobile Fidelity CD and North Star LP are long out of print. The LP was reissued on John Marks Records in 1992 but is also out of print. The John Marks Records CD was released in 1994 and is available in 2011 from www.arkivmusic.com as a j-i-t ArkivCD and as an MP3 download (320kbps, no DRM).Ed.