The Elegant Artistry of Arthur Grumiaux

legendary violinist Arthur Grumiaux
legendary violinist Arthur Grumiaux

Elegance, good taste and a beautiful, bell-like singing tone were all characteristics of Franco-Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986). In contrast to today’s relatively homogenized violin playing, Grumiaux exhibits a distinctly French style. Listening to Grumiaux, I’m also struck by the musical honesty and lack of fussiness in his playing. His musical phrases speak with a purity and simplicity which is hard to come by today.

In his book, Great Masters of the Violin, Boris Schwarz wrote:

[quote]Over the years, Grumiaux’s playing underwent a marked development. He began as an intellectually cool player, with a tone of limited volume and restrained vibrato. As he grew in years and maturity, his interpretations acquired more sensuous warmth and fire without losing any of the former noble qualities. Perhaps it is the nobility and uncompromising musicianship that keeps Grumiaux’s career within certain limits, as if marked “for connoisseurs only.”[/quote]

Let’s become “connoisseurs” and listen to a few great old recordings by Grumiaux:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3[/typography]

It’s hard to imagine better Mozart than this:

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Here are the second and third movements.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Faure and Franck Sonatas[/typography]

Here is a clip of Gabriel Fauré’s two violin sonatas (A major and E minor) as well as the César Franck sonata (beginning at 44:45):

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[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Beethoven Minuet in G[/typography]

Beethoven’s Minuet in G is included in Book 2 of Suzuki’s violin repertoire. I was surprised to come across this performance by Grumiaux:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Sicilienne[/typography]

This short piece has been attributed to Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824), an Austrian composer and pianist. Mozart is thought to have written his Piano Concerto No. 18 for her. Violinist Samuel Dushkin, who “discovered” and arranged this beautiful piece, is now believed to have written it:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Paganini’s I Palpiti[/typography]

Let’s finish up with the virtuoso fireworks of Niccolò Paganini. Before the fireworks start, you’ll hear a singing melody, which might remind you of Italian Bel canto opera:

3 thoughts on “The Elegant Artistry of Arthur Grumiaux”

  1. Another brilliant presentation and your input is the best material on the blog. It allows reflective time and the knowledge of many of the forgotten musical masters that must be preserved. Thank you. Norman Duncan

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  2. Loved your blog. I am also an avid admirer of Baron Arthur Grumiaux, whom I count as the first and the finest among equals. Grumiaux, Oistrakh, Heifetz, Szeryng, Milstein, Kogan, Menuhin and Francescatti are my most favourite, in that order. If one considers all the aspects of classical violin playing, it is difficult to find a more complete and perfect artist than Monsieur Grumiaux. He had it all. His technique was second to none, not even to Heifetz, but unlike many others, he never showed off virtuosity for its sake. Rather he subjugated it to serve the composers as well as possible. His tone was unblemished and golden, but just like the great pianist Sviatoslav Richter, he could change it to perfectly suit the music being played. His balance, poise, classicism, elegance, masterful control of vibrato and uncanny ability to infuse just the right amount of feeling into a piece without over-emoting at all times lend him an aura of his own. He is unparalleled in Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, his recordings of these Austro-German masters are the benchmarks against which others are judged. But even in other Baroque as well as Romantic repertoire, he brings his own nobility to the fore, making the listeners see these works in a new light and revealing hitherto unseen facets. He was truly one of a kind. And the best ever in my book. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this blog entry and look forward to keep visiting.

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