Back to history this week – A recital from the famed Library Of Congress Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium in January of 1952 by the legendary violinist Zino Francescatti and Robert Casadesus in music of Brahms.
This was from a re-broadcast of that 1952 concert done in 1990 for American Public Radio as part of its series devoted to historic concerts from the Library of Congress. It starts off with a Paganini Caprice in a solo performance by Francescatti recorded in 1945. And the remainder of the concert is devoted to Brahms Violin and Piano Sonatas; opus 100, opus 108 and the third movement of the op 78 (time constraints, it was a one hour program).
For those of you not quite familiar with either musician, here’s a little background in order to get your feet wet:
René-Charles Francescatti, (born Aug. 9, 1902, Marseille, France—died Sept. 17, 1991, La Ciotat), French virtuoso violinist known for his lyrical performance style and as a champion of contemporary violin music by such composers as Darius Milhaud, Leonard Bernstein, and Karol Szymanowski.
A child prodigy, Francescatti studied violin from age three. He made his debut at five, soloed successfully in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto at 10, and was an established concert artist by his early 20s. From 1928 he toured widely in Europe and South America, making his U.S. debut in 1939 with the New York Philharmonic. Francescatti made many recordings and toured extensively in the United States, Europe, South America, and Israel. After his retirement he established the Zino Francescatti Foundation for young violinists.
Robert Casadesus was born and died in Paris, and studied there at the Conservatoire with Louis Diémer, taking a Premier Prix (First Prize) in 1913 and the Prix Diémer in 1920. Robert then entered the class of Lucien Capet, who had exceptional influence. Capet had founded a famous quartet that bore his name (Capet Quartet) and in which two of Robert’s uncles played: Henri and Marcel. The Quartet often rehearsed in the Casadesus home, and so it was that Robert was initiated into chamber music. The Beethoven Quartets held no secret for him—he knew them backwards and forwards without ever having played them.
Beginning in 1922, Casadesus collaborated with the composer Maurice Ravel on a project to create piano rolls of a number of his works. Casadesus and Ravel also shared the concert platform in France, Spain and England. Casadesus toured widely as a piano soloist and often performed with his wife, the pianist Gaby (L’Hôte) Casadesus, whom he married in 1921.
From 1935 Casadesus taught at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. He and his family spent the Second World War years in the United States and had a home in Princeton, New Jersey. (Among his Princeton neighbors was Albert Einstein, an amateur violinist; the two played Mozart together privately on occasion.)
After the Battle of France Fall of France in 1940, Robert and Gaby established the Fontainebleau School at Newport, Rhode Island. In 1942 the Fontainebleau School was moved to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in the Berkshires. In 1943, he performed as part of a series of New York concerts meant to raise money for the Coordinating Council of the French Relief Societies.
After the war, in 1946, Robert Casadesus, now Director of the American Conservatory oversaw its return to Fontainebleau. His pupils included Claude Helffer, Grant Johannesen, Monique Haas, Mary Louise Boehm, Carol Lems-Dworkin, and William Eves, who appeared in the Casadesus based Bell Telephone Hour fine arts documentary TV series “The First Family of the Piano” (1967) and was a longtime piano instructor at Bowdoin College. He continued recording and composing; his last composition, the Symphony no. 7, “Israel,” was a tribute to the people of Israel and was dedicated to his frequent collaborator George Szell ; Szell died in the year the work was completed, 1970, and it was not premiered until shortly after Casadesus’s 1972 death, by an ensemble led by conductor Frederic Waldmann at Alice Tully Hall in New York City.
Robert and Gaby Casadesus had three children, Jean, Guy and Therese. Casadesus died in Paris, 19 September 1972, after a brief illness and only a few months after the death of his son Jean in an automobile accident. Gaby Casadesus died in Paris on 12 November 1999. In her later years she edited the works of Ravel for G. Schirmer, Inc.
Turn it up and enjoy.