Alberto Lysy took his first violin lessons with his Ukrainian father, going on to learn with Ljerko Spiller before travelling to Europe at the age of seventeen to further his studies. Failing to sustain a living in London by busking, he was compelled to return to Argentina in 1953. Despite this difficult start, in 1955 he became the first Argentinian to win a prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition, following which Princess Lilian of Belgium played duets with him at the palace. Furthermore, Lysy captured the imagination of jurist Menuhin who arranged a Rockefeller Foundation grant for him, became his teacher, and gave him a 1742 Guarnerius violin. Throughout his career Lysy followed Menuhin’s example in devoting time to pedagogy, founding the International Menuhin Academy in Gstaad and initiating several festivals to this end.
Lysy’s playing is characterised by a bright, almost penetrating tone in higher registers which, as with many of his generation, remains unsoftened by his all-pervasive vibrato. Nonetheless a powerfully projected quality places him within the parameters of modern mainstream style. Many of his recordings however—even relatively recent ones—sound dated from today’s perspective. In Bach’s Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord (1996) any suggestion of historical awareness must be tempered by the fact that our understanding of what this constitutes has changed dramatically in recent years. The harpsichord is intrusive and brassy, Lysy’s delivery of the slow movements is heavy with a thick vibrato, and his finales are tough and extrovert in an almost Heifetz-like way: all traits associated with performances at least a decade earlier than this.
The Brahms violin sonatas receive a thoroughly conventional treatment, although there is some fire and excitement in the first movement of Op. 100. The remaining movements are rather slow with a powerful vibrato employed more for tonal beautification than for conveying Classical phrase shapes—fairly typical of the 1980s.
Rather better is a 1987 performance of Mendelssohn’s D minor Concerto, which Menuhin claimed to have discovered, or at least re-habilitated. This work, of small-scale ambition in comparison to the more famous E minor, is played in a modern way that, arguably, blurs the Classical lines of the work, but there is a genuine excitement in Lysy’s sound and in that of the orchestra under Menuhin’s experienced guidance.
Although Lysy’s playing is not especially distinctive, his performance is of high quality and testifies to his illustrious pedagogic connections.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist