Reviews | RH-005 | FRANCO GULLI | reDiscovered

ROTY-2020 | 01 December 2020 | Stephen Greenbank | Music Web International | Recordings Of The Year 2020  (page 10) «Looking back over this awful year, where coronavirus has disrupted the lives of everyone, and many have sadly lost loved ones, reviewing has been one of the elements in my life to add some sanity and restore some balance. I've had the pleasure of savouring several interesting box sets, and these I've concentrated on for my Recordings of the Year. Rhine Classics are to be lauded for unearthing this wealth of live and studio recordings of the Italian violinist Franco Gulli, which span a period of forty years from 1957 to 1997. He's an artist definitely worthy of attention and this treasure trove will both delight and intrigue. Full Review»
04 October 2020 | Jed Distler | | Big Boxes: A Major Violinist Rediscovered  «The eminent violinist and pedagogue Franco Gulli (1926-2001) may be familiar to collectors mainly through his stellar contributions to I Musici’s Vivaldi Edition on the Philips label. Yet his virtuosity, musicianship, and repertoire covered ample territory. One could argue that professionals and string connoisseurs were more cognizant of Gulli’s artistry than the public at large; in this sense Gulli stood as an Italian counterpart to the American Oscar Shumsky. Emilio Pessina, the mastermind behind Rhine Editions and a longtime Gulli admirer, aims to put things right with an 11-disc anthology that showcases the violinist in a wide range of solo, chamber, and orchestral works.

The performances stem from archival radio broadcasts, out-of-print LPs, and live concert tapes recorded by Pessina himself with Gulli’s permission. Not surprisingly, the sound quality varies from source to source, yet everything is quite listenable. So where to begin? For naturally fluid and intelligently phrased modern-instrument Bach, start with Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 preserved in a May 1973 broadcast with the underrated Ernest Bour conducting. Gulli makes astonishing and consistently musical light of the pyrotechnics prevailing throughout Paganini’s First, Second, and Fifth concertos. To give one example, check out the impeccable rhythmic focus and dead-on intonation in the downward spiccato runs in the Rondo theme of the D major concerto (sound clip). Every solo phrase in a 1980 Mozart Concerto No. 5 with the Cleveland Symphony under Aldo Ceccato sings forth with shape and concision. Haydn’s amazingly inventive yet oddly undervalued Sinfonia concertante not only shows Gulli and his fellow soloists on top form (the cello’s high tessitura poses no problems for Giacinto Caramia!), but also reminds us of conductor Denis Vaughan’s prowess as a Haydn interpreter. This 1965 recording originally appeared alongside Symphonies 82 through 92 in a six-LP RCA Victor boxed set that Sony/BMG ought to reissue. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto features lovingly phrased Kreisler cadenzas and broad tempos for the outer movements. Despite backward balances, one infers genuine soloist/ensemble synergy in the Bartók Second concerto with Mario Rossi leading RAI Torino forces, who are more accomplished than their neighboring Milan counterparts in the Prokofiev First concerto under Sergiu Celibidache (this was decades before the conductor became the Munich Philharmonic’s slow-motion perfectionist doyen). Still, Gulli’s characterful gruffness in the finale evokes his one-time teacher Joseph Szigeti’s famous prewar recording with Thomas Beecham. Perhaps some of the older Szigeti’s relaxed, conversational approach to the Busoni concerto’s more episodic sequences rubbed off on Gulli, although the latter’s agility and timbral sweetness unquestionably surpasses Szigeti’s quavering unsteadiness. It’s easy getting past the dry recorded ambience to appreciate the hand-in-glove ensemble work and stylistic sympathy both Gulli and his wife and longtime pianist collaborator Enrica Cavallo bring to both Busoni violin sonatas. Gulli internalizes and embodies Othmar Schoeck’s abundantly tuneful Violin Concerto to the point, although the muffled 1973 broadcast sonics undermine the impact of loud orchestral tuttis. Several live recitals capture Gulli’s commanding projection from an audience member’s perspective. They also trace how his sonority became slightly pinched in his final years, with less secure intonation, as back-to-back comparisons of the 1987 and 1999 Debussy Sonata performances reveal. For this reason, I prefer Gulli and Cavallo’s studio recording of the Respighi Sonata on the Dynamic label to the live 1999 performance here. In all, this release provides the opportunity for violin mavens to explore Gulli’s artistry in depth. And while I have the floor, I hope to see the first CD reissue of Gulli and Cavallo’s glorious stereo Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle sooner rather than later.»  Artistic Quality: 9 | Sound Quality: 6

December 2019 | GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2019 (pg. 134) | Rob Cowan | REPLAY Masters of the bow | Franco Gulli - reDiscovered    «The remarkably communicative violinist Franco Gulli could be as sublimely affecting in Bach (the two solo violin concertos) as he was consistently on the ball in Bartók’s Concerto No 2 (expressive, too, under Mario Rossi in 1959) and Prokofiev’s First (under Sergiu Celibidache in 1957). Gulli, born in 1926, started playing aged five and by the end of the 1930s was expanding his repertoire to embrace Busoni, whose Violin Concerto is represented in a remarkably assured performance from 1997, when Gulli was 70. Of equal artistic import is his 1973 performance of Schoeck’s colourful Violin Concerto. His 1957 account of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole (four-movement version) has something of Bronisław Huberman’s gypsy-style temperament about it and yet his approach to the standard classics (Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn) is often sublimely beautiful, as is his 1964 account of Viotti’s Concerto No 22, possibly the finest I’ve ever heard. Also included are dazzling Paganini (Concertos Nos 1, 2 and 5) and works by Ned Rorem, Ghedini, Bloch (including a riveting account of the First Solo Suite) and others. This is an excellent, often revelatory collection...»
17 December 2019 | Stephen Greenbank | MusicWeb International | Franco Gulli - reDiscovered  «[...] The recordings span a period of forty years from 1957 to 1997 and derive from a variety of sources. What we have are live broadcasts, original masters and studio recordings (LP 33 RPM). The project has been realized under the auspice of Giuliana and the Gulli family. The audio restoration has been expertly achieved by Emilio Pessina, with annotations supplied by Paolo Pessina. [...]
The whole package smacks quality, from the sturdy box to the beautifully produced booklet. Track detail listings and a useful biographical portrait are desirable elements. Violin mavens will be equally drawn to the photos of Gulli with notable colleagues - Oistrakh, Kogan, Szigeti and Stern. Equally attractive are the individual photos of the violinist which adorn all eleven CD sleeves.  Sound quality is variable throughout, but this comes as no surprise taking into account the provenance of the recordings. Overall you’ll be more than satisfied. The original master tapes offer warmth and intimacy.
All told, this highly desirable collection offers an amalgam of engrossing repertoire, refined musicianship and passionate commitment.»
CHOC de CLASSICA | December 2019 / January 2020 | Jean-Charles Hoffelé | Classica No.218 (p. 91) | Franco Gulli - The refined bow of the Italian violinist sang like a nightingale and could hatch the spring.   «[...] But to take the measure of his art and his repertoire, it is necessary to immerse oneself in the live recordings, from the 1950s to the end of the 1990s, which Emilio Pessina has just assembled in the bounding box set by Rhine Classics, portrait finally faithful of the most belcantist among violinists.»
Franco Gulli - Rediscovered. Rhine Classics RH-005 (11CD), 1957-1999, CHOC◗
December 2019 | Jean-Michel Molkhou | DIAPASON No.685 (p.119) | Hommage à Franco Gulli 
25 June 2019 | Jonathan Woolf | MusicWeb International | Franco Gulli - reDiscovered   A splendid and loving boxset.   «Franco Gulli (1926-2001) is the latest violinist to be celebrated by Rhine Classics in an 11-CD box that does much to expand his discography in what are, in the main, live performances. [...] Some of the highpoints whether for repertorial or performance reasons include the Beethoven Violin Concerto, Paganini No.5 and Viotti No.22 and all come from the master tapes and have never before appeared commercially. [...] I enjoyed Paolo Pessina’s booklet note very much. Still, the track details are full and clear, and there are some lovely, intimate and evocative photographs of Gulli, one in colour, sourced from the family archives that serve only to enhance this splendid and loving box.»
5 June 2019 | Luca Ciammarughi | Radio Classica, podcast TOP-TEN | Franco Gulli - reDiscovered   «Top Ten è oggi dedicata a 10 ascolti da un fantastico box Rhine Classics che ci rivela l’arte del violinista Franco Gulli, fra i grandi del Novecento.  /  Top Ten today is dedicated to 10 listenings from a fantastic Rhine Classics box that reveals the art of violinist Franco Gulli, one of the greatest figures of the 20th Century.»
26 May 2019 | Gary Lemco | Audiophile Audition | The Music Treasury, broadcast | Franco Gulli, Violinist - Part 2     The Music Treasury continues its tribute to violinist Franco Gulli this week.  Hosted by Dr Gary Lemco, the Spring broadcast time of The Music Treasury on KZSU 90.1 FM remains Sunday, from 19:00 to 21:00 PDT.  You can also listen online at during the broadcast time.The Music Treasury celebrates the new Rhine Classics release of 11 CDs that capture Franco Gulli in concert. Host Gary Lemco shares memories of having met and interviewed Gulli in Atlanta, GA. This is the second part of a tribute to Gulli, who had played Bloch’s Baal Shem with the Atlanta Symphony under Louis Lane. His recorded work for the Musical Heritage label has yet to be restored in its entirety. Gulli admired both Nathan Milstein and Joseph Szigeti, and Gulli imitated and surpassed what had been great in both artists: scholarship, fidelity to the musical test, precision, and a degree of personal interpretation that maintained his spontaneity.
19 May 2019 | Gary Lemco | Audiophile Audition | The Music Treasury, broadcast | Franco Gulli, violinist - Part 1     The Music Treasury, airing this week from 19 :00 to 21:00 PDT, is featuring the exceptional violinist from last century, Franco Gulli.  The show may be heard on KZSU in the Bay Area, and on line at, hosted by Dr Gary Lemco.The Music Treasury celebrates the new Rhine Classics release of 11 CDs that capture Franco Gulli in concert. Host Gary Lemco shares memories of having met and interviewed Gulli in Atlanta, GA, after the Maestro had performed Bloch’s Baal Shem with the Atlanta Symphony under Louis Lane.
27 May 2019 | Victor Eskenasy | Suplimentul de Cultura No.646 | Franco Gulli reDiscovered - a remarkable collection of the Italian violinist   « [...] Paolo Pessina signs an all-encompassing presentation of Franco Gulli's artistic life and evolution, entitled The Renaissance of the Italian "Bel Canto" violin tradition, accompanied by numerous archive photos provided by the family and the Accademia Chigiana.[...] Citing him, you are a little surprised at the opinion that Gulli was not an intellectual, but just a musical intelligence. Remarkable and worth reading, to listen carefully to him, are his thoughts about Joseph Szigeti, whom he met in the 1960s, "after many years of concerts as a soloist and chamber musician, when we began a long study and a intimate musical relationship. [...] He has changed my whole attitude towards music, which is why I will always be grateful to him. " "He brought me into the modern era, not only as a repertoire, but also in terms of new musical standards. I consider Szigeti the most modern of our generation of violinists. It was a man who struggled to make music and not just music. Selfishness and what is sometimes called "cult of personality" have been strange to his musical interpretation. He is responsible for the inspiration and interpretation of a great number of new works. [...] I am convinced that under his guidance I have matured substantially."  This collection made by Emilio Pessina now demonstrates his words and deserves to be heard. »
5☆☆ | 25 April 2019 | Gary Lemco | Audiophile Audition | Franco Gulli reDiscovered - An 11 CD Set of Defining Performances  «A sweeping 11 CD retrospective!  [...] Having been impressed by Nathan Milstein as a youth, Gulli follows that master’s penchant for driving speed combined with a natural bel canto, aided in these by his 1716 Stradivari formerly owned by Franz von Vecsey.  Gulli, incidentally, provides his own cadenzas to many concertos  he plays, particularly appropriate in his Mozart “Turkish” Concerto [...] . The sense of stylistic comfort and ease of transition have been with us throughout some 11 hours of playing time on these timeless discs. Some musical assignments become a privilege to have reviewed, and this Gulli set from Rhine Classics is among them. That I will present goodly portions on “The Music Treasury” becomes a pre-determined fact.»
March 2019 | Rob Cowan | GRAMOPHONE (pg. 98-99) | Rhine gold: an archive treasure trove   «Rob Cowan welcomes a historic label that has unearted some remarkable treasures. -- [...] So here's to the next Rhine Classics releases, including more Fiorentino and a big box of recordings by the violinist Franco Gulli. I'll be filling you in as soon as they arrive.»