Andrè Navarra Plays The Music Of Lalo – 1949 – Past Daily Weekend Gramophone

Andrè Navarra - one of the more eloquent exponents of French Cello playing.
Andrè Navarra – one of the more eloquent exponents of French Cello playing.

Over to Paris this weekend for a Radio studio recording of the Lalo Cello Concerto, with the legendary Andrè Navarra, cello and the Paris Conservatory, conducted by the great Andrè Cluytens.

No date on the disc, but judging from the other sessions around this time, it would be about 1949 by my calculations; maybe a little earlier, maybe a little later. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific – there’s no information to be had at the moment.

In 1929, at the age of eighteen, Navarra joined the Krettly Quartet, and remained with them for the next seven years. He also helped form an ensemble called the B.B.N. Trio with the pianist Joseph Benvenuti and violinist René Benedetti. Two years later, he made his solo debut with Paris’s Colonne Orchestra, performing Édouard Lalo’s Cello Concerto in D minor. In 1933 he became principal cellist of the Paris Opéra Orchestra, in addition to continuing to appear as a soloist with various European orchestras.

During these years, Navarra was exceptionally athletic. His favorite sport was swimming, but he also enjoyed boxing. This led to Navarra developing an extremely strong and stocky physique which he kept for years afterward. He regarded this as ideal for a cellist, allowing him to dominate the relatively large instrument.

Navarra slowly continued to establish his career throughout the 1930s, receiving a major boost in 1937 when he won first prize at the Vienna International Competition. However, his career was abruptly halted by World War II in 1939. During this time he abandoned his cello and served with the French infantry.

In 1945, after a period of practice to regain his physical skills, André Navarra resumed his career. In 1949, he accepted a professorship at the Conservatoire de Paris as a successor to Pierre Fournier, and meanwhile toured extensively in the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Soviet Union, playing with the era’s great conductors. His performances included premieres of cello concertos written for him. Among them was one by André Jolivet, which Navarra recorded for Erato; it received release in the United States on Westminster XWN-19118 (mono) and WST-17118 (stereo). He also recorded a particularly well-received version of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli conducting.

In addition to his position at the Conservatoire de Paris, André Navarra taught master classes at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana during summers beginning in 1954, where among his students was a young Saša Večtomov, fall courses in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and accepted an additional professorship at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold in 1958. He also taught in London and Vienna.

André Navarra recorded Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in 1954 with the New Symphony Orchestra of London, conducted by Rudolph Schwarz. Capitol Records released it in 1955, catalog number P 8301.

André Navarra completed acclaimed tours of Southern Africa in 1965, 1969 and 1973. He died in Siena, Italy.

Any broadcast performance with either Andrè Navarra or Andrè Cluytens is cause for celebration anyway. And since I am doubtful this performance has been reissued, or even issued in any form other than this French Radio Transcription disc, it constitutes a rare find to go along with being an enjoyable find.

And that’s how Sunday nights should go.

So enjoy this one, and come back next week.

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  1. So many THANKS for this ! Cluytens was a great conductor, so elegant way to make music !

  2. Andre Navarra was also a greeat proponent of contemporary music for the cello. One of the finest of the pieces he premiered was Florent Schmit’s “Introit, recit et conge”, composed in 1949 and first performed in 1951, with Paul Paray conducting the ORTF. A later 1955 performance of the work by Navarra (with Gaston Poulet directing) was broadcast over French Radio, so perhaps this is one that you will be able to feature in a future upload.

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