Classic Arturo Delmoni Gold CD Available Again

Back when there was still something called the "classical music industry," one of Stereophile's favorite small labels was John Marks Records, masterminded by the magazine's "The Fifth Element" columnist, John Marks. In fact, it was his recordings that first brought John to the magazine's attention. JMR had a phenomenal run of releases, among them Arturo Delmoni and Meg Bachman Vas's Songs My Mother Taught Me, Nathaniel Rosen's cycle of J.S. Bach's Suites for Solo Cello, Delmoni and Rosen's Music for a Glass Bead Game, and the three Rejoice recordings of Christmas music for string quartet (also featuring Delmoni and Rosen). That's a pretty solid run for a label that released fewer than 20 recordings.

Marks has now revisited one of his earlier releases, Arturo Delmoni's 1996 performances of Eugene Ysaÿe's Sonata for Solo Violin, Op.27 No.2, "Obsession"; Fritz Kreisler's Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice, Op.6; and Bach's Partita 2 in d for Solo Violin, BWV 1004. The disc was recorded in a seminary chapel in the middle of the night by engineer Kavi Alexander, who used two EAR/Milab microphones in a Blumlein array to feed his Ampeg MR70 open-reel analog recorder. The tapes were remastered by Bob Ludwig for digital transfer and reissued on a gold-plated CD—of which Stereophile has a limited number for exclusive sale on its e-commerce website for $24.95 plus shipping and handling.

This disc is an under-acknowledged classic—or at least, in a just world, it would be a classic. The sound is overwhelming: Delmoni plays a 1780 J.B. Guadagnini violin, and it's a cannon! The instrument's sound is bold and bright, and the Chapel of Christ the King at St. Anthony's Seminary, in Santa Barbara, supports it with an acoustic that deserves costar billing.

Did I mention that the sound is free of grain and extraordinarily natural? And dynamic? Oh yes it is. Do you like harmonic overtones that just won't quit? Check out the opening passages of the Ysaÿe's first movement. "Obsession"? You don't know the half of it.

And what a great program it is. Ysaÿe wrote a series of six sonatas inspired by Bach's six works for unaccompanied violin, and dedicated each to a different famous violinist. "Obsession" is dedicated to Jacques Thibaud, but that's almost beside the point—which is that Delmoni learned the sonata directly from Josef Gingold, Ysaÿe's last student, giving us a direct link to the composer himself. Far from a dry study, "Obsession" sparkles with whimsy, quoting generously from both Bach's Partita 3 in E and the Dies Irae, the latter so beloved of Berlioz and Goth girls everywhere.

Kreisler's Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice is simply delightful. The impish violinist published it under his own name, rather than trying to pass it off as a "discovery"—the main reason being, one suspects, that he simply couldn't stand to see anyone else's name attached to it. However, even Kreisler would appreciate what Delmoni does with it, especially the way the first movement ends in silence as the string harmonics fade into the chapel's acoustic.

And no matter how many recordings you have of Bach's Partita 2 in d, with its famous Ciaccona, you'll find a place in your heart for Delmoni's interpretation, which is quite muscular—and possessed of a linear continuity that is striking.

This reissue of John Marks and Arturo Delmoni's Ysaÿe-Kreisler-Bach disc is even more audiophile than the original (which is still available from ArkivMusic). Its label is double-printed: first completely in black, to prevent the print on the label side from inducing jitter by modulating the disc's reflectivity, and then again with the black-on-olive text and ground; the reflective layer is gold. Why gold? Other than the fact that it doesn't corrode, John Marks notes that it sounds as if the gold one, saying that the image sounds as if it had been constructed "with more dots—as if with a better printer," and that the music was more continuous.

All this makes it definitely cause for celebration—don't miss this CD this time around, or you'll be kicking yourself in the future. The Ysaÿe Kreisler Bach CD costs $24.95 and is available here.