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Ossy Renardy did not receive the usual attention bestowed upon contemporary middle-European musicians; mostly self-taught, he spent his youth touring until he was ‘discovered’ in Vienna. There he made his professional début aged thirteen and at fourteen was hired by conductor Victor de Sabata as a soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. By then he had changed his name from Oskar Reiss to Ossy Renardy, which his manager thought would have more public appeal.

The young Renardy secured his fame when he played all twenty-four of the Paganini Caprices (in David’s violin and piano arrangement) in his Carnegie Hall début, aged eighteen. He then made the first complete recording of the Caprices for RCA Victor in 1940 with Walter Robert at the piano and recorded the whole set again with Eugene Helmer in 1950 for the low-budget Remington Records.

Following his much-talked-about début Renardy toured America extensively. He took US citizenship and joined the US Army in 1942. After the war he prepared to reappear in public by spending two years studying in New York with Theodore and Alice Pashkus and by 1948 was performing with all the major orchestras of North America, Europe and Israel.

This extraordinary career was cut tragically short en route to a concert in New Mexico when the car driven by his accompanist Robert skidded on ice and Renardy was killed. The bitterness of this tragedy is rendered more immediate when one hears the quality of his recordings. His 1940 set of Paganini’s Op. 1 Caprices shows astounding technical control, an extraordinarily composed nineteenth-century staccato (in which many notes are executed in one long up-bow, all sharply articulated) and wonderful depth of tone, although his rather slow vibrato is certainly typical of this time. Short works recorded with Robert in 1941 show great virtuosic command: Zarzycki’s Mazurka evidences immaculate left-hand pizzicati, whilst Ernst’s Hungarian Airs have a sumptuously-toned melodic line. Renardy’s 1950 recording of Brahms’s Violin Concerto brings all of this together in a truly magnificent performance. Here his tone in the first movement is concentrated, with judicious use of portamento. Intonation is spot-on, making multiple-stops bright yet sonorous, and the Kreisler cadenza is memorably played. Arguably the slow movement is a little maudlin, but the vivacious finale shows youthful élan and captivating poise. Renardy’s playing is, in my view, some of the best on record.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

Role: Classical Artist 
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