Complete 1934-35 Polydor recordings by the Galimir Quartet

I’m finally back with some music!  I’m still not quite sure on the private or non-private status of my blog down the road, but I have finally caught up with the large number of comments asking for invitations.  Sorry about the delay and thanks for the interest! Obviously, I have not yet started the huge task of restoring links for the dead files, but this will start happening soon!

Meanwhile, with a minimum of comment, here are my transfers of the 3 works recorded by what the mid-30s Polydor labels refer to as the Galimir Quartet of Vienna.  I’m sure many young musicians knew Felix Galimir later in his life, as one of the premier chamber music coaches (at Juilliard, Mannes & Marlboro) until his death in 1999, but before that, in addition to this early version of the Galimir Quartet (its last incarnation only disbanded in 1993!), he was a member of the Vienna Philharmonic, and later Toscanini’s NBC SO. I still think of my only coaching (at a master class) with him whenever I play the Beethoven Spring Sonata!

The Berg Lyric Suite was recorded again by one of Galimir’s later quartets in 1983, but this 1935 recording was the first.  It’s hard to imagine the work involved to learn this work at that time, but the hard work shows….this is a completely fluid and assured performance!  The Ravel and Milhaud works have the stamp of authority of having both composers supervise the recordings. There are some transfers available of the these recordings, but I thought there was room for improvement, especially being able to work from flawless laminated Brunswick pressings from the collection of my friend Mike Gartz (thanks!).  One of those previous transfers of  the Berg missed a nearly half step pitch drop in the 4th mvt., and I’ve corrected this, of course. In the case of the Milhaud, Mike also did the 24 bit dubbing from his copy.

Ravel String Quartet in F
Brunswick 90411/13; Polydor 516758/80
matrices: 1012/14, 1008/9, 1011 gpp
Recorded 1934

Berg: Lyric Suite
Brunswick 95006/9; Polydor 526659/62
matrices: 1093, 1092, 1094/95, 1088/89, 1096/97 gpp
Recorded 1935

Milhaud String Quartet No. 7, Op. 87
Polydor 561100/01
matrices: hpp 2160/63
Recorded Nov. 18, 1935
Paris, Polydor Studio No. 2


See here, for the interesting proofs with Ravel’s corrections, one page of which heads this post.

This entry was posted in Chamber, Galimir Quartet, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Complete 1934-35 Polydor recordings by the Galimir Quartet

  1. dumbarton73 says:

    Thank you for share this wonderfull recordings.

  2. dgbeecher says:

    Ahhh, these are such wonderful recordings! Thank you for this and all of your work!

    • Albert Innaurato says:

      I’ve written a couple of time before. Your work is invaluable and I have heard great performances I never thought to hear again, or have never heard. The Galimir are thrilling. Thanks!

  3. andrewsatura says:

    Glad to have you back up and running Neal! Thanks for these superb versions, of which the Lyric Suite must be the closest we’ll get to Berg’s ideal. Was the faulty transfer on the Testament CD? Their reissues seem to be a bit tone deaf at times.

  4. fattoxxon says:

    Great to have you back Neal, and with a typically wonderful & fascinating post!

  5. 2ndviolinist says:

    I have nothing to compare the Berg or Milhaud to among ’30s or earlier string quartet recordings but I believe the Ravel stands up well to the Capet and International SQ recordings. It is a very fine recording and which of these early recordings boils down to taste.

    • tatifan says:

      I asked Ward Marston what his favorite Ravel Qrt. was, and he likes the Calvet Qrt., but I haven’t heard it in a long time. It was on the old Dante/Lys series on CD.

      • andrewsatura says:

        Huh, the Calvet sounds pretty conventional to my ears. I have it on an old French EMI (OVD 49.323). I find the Capet much more fascinating because they inhabit a sound world that’s now extinct. Their playing is “unreconstructed” and would strike most modern listeners as inept!

      • 2ndviolinist says:

        The Capet was the 1st version I found. I adore the Capet SQ, my only quibble is that Capet plays the 1st violin parts to many works too ‘soloistically” as opposed to the Flonzaley, Roth, old Budapest, original Guarneri, etc. Of course, all the old SQs are in a different, and much better world than more recent ones. If anyone is interested in early chamber recordings and much more, check out my YouTube channel, 2ndviolinist. BTW, the Calvet Ravel is available on iTunes.

      • 2ndviolinist says:

        I now completely agree with Ward Marstan, the Calvet recording of the Ravel is not only the best but is magical, esp. mvts 2-4. The Ravel itself, though quite obviously based on Debussy’s, is my favorite of all quartets after Beethoven’s time.

  6. andrewsatura says:

    “Capet plays the 1st violin parts to many works too ‘soloistically'”

    That’s precisely what I mean by unreconstructed. Before the onset of musical “modernity”(however one may define it) the 1st violinist was a de facto soloist. The other players were a mere foil to the virtuosity of the leader. Contemporary reviews of the Joachim quartet support this view, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, traveling back in time, we found that Schuppanzigh dominated his quartet partners.

    • 2ndviolinist says:

      I found the Calvet and really like it, especially mvt 3. I think it stands up well to the other versions I have including the Capet. There certainly seems to have been more than one opinion of how to run a string quartet at the turn of the century and certainly in early recordings. Capet stands out amongst older string quartets including Klingler, Rosé, the original Budapest, the original Guarneri, Fonzaley, etc. None of these quartets had a first violinist who played particularly soloistically.

      • andrewsatura says:

        I dunno. Listen to the Klingler recording of the Cherubini scherzo. The way Klingler dances around the beat and the other players seems a bit soloistic to me. The same goes for their Beethoven op.130. A matter of opinion, I suppose. I’d agree that the other groups you mentioned are more egalitarian. But you raise an important point- mere chronology does not necessarily translate into old-worldliness. I’m thinking of the recordings Adelina de Lara made in the 1950’s. Talk about a time capsule!

    • 2ndviolinist says:

      I finally got around to the Klingler mvts you mention. Klingler only plays soloistically in the Cherubini when little else is going on. In the Beethoven, he plays more like Capet but the whole quartet plays in a similar manner when the 1st violin is not playing or prominent. In general I think Capet really stands out in the 1st violinist as soloist style. BTW I love the Capet SQ.

  7. tatifan says:

    I wonder what kind of quartet sound Ravel had in mind? To my ears, Capet sounds more “modern” in overall musical approach, despite the plentiful portamentos, in comparison with a group like the Bohemian Quartet, which is not only pre-modern in approach tonal approach, but is less structured (not to say ineffective, however!) rhythmically. Flonzaley as well seems to be in the process of synthesizing the old and the new. It’s interesting because Lucien Capet’s student Galamian fathered much of “modern” string playing in the approach to sound production. What I love about so many these old groups is that, whether it’s a 1st violin dominated approach or not, they don’t force their sound as 4 string players to over-reach what is natural. When did this particular tendency become more common, I wonder. I remember the critic and writer Michael Steinberg once telling me that he thought Marlboro was a prime breeding ground for this kind of forcing, with so many soloists trying to out-shout each other. Ironic, with Adolf and Hermann Busch involved in the founding of the festival…it certainly wasn’t their approach!

    • andrewsatura says:

      “Ironic, with Adolf and Hermann Busch involved in the founding of the festival…it certainly wasn’t their approach!”

      Well, that’s the problem with unintended consequences. I suppose the people who founded our modern conservatories intended that they would “conserve” precious musical traditions. Instead, the conservatories have gutted said traditions, replacing them with dubious scholarship and ideology. I suppose there’s no hard and fast rule for classifying a recorded performance as “modern” or “pre-modern”; some might argue that they’re all modern by virtue of being mechanically reproduced (thanks Benjamin!). Of all the quartet recordings I’ve heard, the Bohemians are the most unreconstructed. As you point out, musicians of their ilk didn’t give a damn about bar lines or metrical placement. How very different than our modern method of subdividing every rhythm into 32nd notes so that everyone’s “together”! What I love about these old groups, and pardon my metaphor as it’s vulgar but direct, is that they “get me off” emotionally in a way that no living musician can. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend Robert Philip’s book “Performing Music in the Age of Recording” for a nuanced discussion of all these issues.

    • 2ndviolinist says:

      I consider Galamian to be, if not the only one, the main antichrist to “old style” playing. My brother went to Juilliard while Galamian and Persinger were teaching, at the same time that Perlman and Zuckerman were there. My brother studied with Persinger who studied with Ysaye. He said that if you lined up Galamian students behind a curtain, except for technical facility, they would all sound the same. He said that every Persinger student had their own style. This was late in Persinger’s life, in fact he took lessons with him until he died. He adored Persinger and would hang out around his studio and take extra lessons if someone canceled. He also baby sat his very precocious son, who one time flushed his father’s gold watch down the toilet. BTW Persinger, who I believe was in the seventies, had married a woman who I think was in her twenties.

      Heifetz also influenced playing styles by emphasizing the excitement in pieces, often in a rather cold and calculating manner rather than the more personal, nuanced styles of violinists who came before and overlapped him. Many of his recordings are also rather brash and harsh. There are numerous exceptions and if I heard him on the stage today I would consider him a god compared to the pygmies held up as the greats of our time.

      • andrewsatura says:

        I have to agree with you about Galamian and Heifetz. I keep running into old Galamian students and as you say, their playing is virtually indistinguishable from one to the next. Heifetz always struck me as the most materialistic of all violinists- a true mercantilist. But there were many more ideologues like them in the conducting world, the vocal world, the pianistic world. As I mentioned earlier, Robert Philip’s outstanding book tackles this phenomenon with gusto.

    • 2ndviolinist says:

      Where can I find recordings of the Bohemian Quartet? I’ve never heard them and you’ve more than piqued my interest!

      • andrewsatura says:

        You’re in luck! There’s a new website called ContraClassics where you can stream the entire Biddulph catalog for free (with exceptions due to copyright issues). I believe the CD with all of the Bohemian Quartet recordings is called The Czech Quartet Tradition, but the site’s organized by artist, composer, work etc. Let me know your email address and I’ll send you an invitation to join!

      • 2ndviolinist says:

        The site was no problem to join. Thanks for the lead. Listening to the “American” SQ. Haven’t heard enough yet but sounds very interesting. It’s fantastic to have so many resources for old recordings these days compared to the ’70s and ’80s when one could find the odd LP. We had 1 source for a large collection of classical 78s in Austin – Immortal Performances, a house and business (sort of) owned by Jim Cartwright who even had a weekly show on the local classical station which, of course, was eventually discontinued. He considered himself an archivist. A friend and I recorded the Kreisler-Rachmaninoff Schubert A major sonata on a cassette with a rather primitive system, but how exciting! Now, many of the CDs are no longer available. Not being a 78 collector I was fortunate to buy many at very good prices a number of years ago. It’s great that YT, blogs, CHARM, etc. have filled that void and vastly expanded access to previously unavailable recordings. Have to check out the Philip books.

  8. tatifan says:

    I have a different Robert Philip book actually, Early Recordings and Musical Style: Changing Tastes in Instrumental Performance, 1900-1950 (a $2 discard at a library book sale!), and yes it’s very interesting! He’s a bit tough on some of my favorites, but if only there were more people to really listen with fresh and analytic ears to all of this material as he has done!

    I worked with Camilla Wicks for several (wonderful) years, and she studied with Persinger, of course. There’s one statement from her on this page (, and she always talked about how much his guidance meant to her.

    That statement about the Galamian students at Juilliard reminds me of a famous/infamous sequence in a PBS documentary on Juilliard from the 70s or 80s. They cut between a bunch of Martin Canin students preparing Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto for the concerto competition. You could SEE that there were different players shown, but if you closed your eyes there was no discernable change when it cut to a new player!!

  9. andrewsatura says:

    If you’ve read Philip’s other book, you’ll definitely want to check out “Performing Music” as well. I believe there’s a preview on Google Books. I must tip my hat to your blog as I’ve found a couple of recordings here which Philip uses as musical illustrations. He does a decent job of notating some performers’ idiosyncrasies, but you really have to hear the disc to understand what he’s talking about.

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