Romanian-born Lola Bobesco, like many of the figures in this book, began tuition with her father, with whom she gave her first concert at the age of six. Her formative years were passed in France where she spent her summers at the home of Marcel Chailley and Céliny Chailley-Richez (who later formalised such casual music making with friends and students as the Chailley Summer School).
Having studied under Chailley and Boucherit in Paris, Bobesco gained the Prix d’excellence in 1934. International recognition came at the first Ysaÿe Competition in 1937 at which she was the only player trained in Paris or Brussels to be placed among the top ten competitors. In later life Bobesco settled into chamber music and orchestral leading, with a particular interest in Baroque music. She formed and led Les Solistes de Bruxelles, which later became known as L’Ensemble d’Archets Eugène Ysaÿe, and became orchestral leader and a professor in Liège.
Bobesco’s discography is very standard: she recorded sonatas by Beethoven, Fauré, Brahms, Franck and Debussy as well as a number of Baroque pieces, although she did make one or two excursions into more obscure repertoire with works such as Nin’s Quatre Commentaires or Golestan’s Tzingareilla.
On record Bobesco is an exciting violinist, although her strongly emotive and even histrionic style of delivery suits some works more than others. Her performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto, recorded in 1950, is highly emotional with a powerful sound, well-articulated bowing and a fast finale that pushes the tempo even at the expense of being entirely together with the orchestra. On the other hand the clean and elegant post-classical style of Viotti’s Concerto No. 22, recorded late in her career in 1980, is rather spoilt by modern mannerisms such as the ‘Menuhin slur’ (where slurred groups have notes individually aspirated) and a very wide vibrato, as well as avoiding the slurred up-bow on-string staccato (an effect associated with Viotti and his protégés in the early Paris school) in favour of an off-string stroke. The slow movement feels rather weak and sluggish—a performance trait that does little to rehabilitate Viotti’s reputation as one of the greatest violin composers of the turn of the nineteenth century—whilst there is a conspicuously flat elongated trill in the finale.
Her live 1963 performance of Vieuxtemps’s Concerto No. 5, however, is a triumph; here Bobesco’s playing is impassioned as though her life depended on it! There is a slight tendency for her to turn this work into the kind of gigantic, monumental reading often mistakenly seen as representative of the nineteenth century, but the power and articulation of her playing (and that of the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln under Karl Böhm) is outstanding and makes for some truly compelling listening.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)