But he was perhaps best known for his Mozart, and it’s here that a string lover’s Grumiaux collection should begin. The A major Concerto with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony shows all the characteristics that made Grumiaux’s Mozart so enchanting—bright sound, crisp articulation, sparkling bow-strokes, and something more: perfect sympathy with Mozart’s magical blend of joy with a knowing humaneness. (The D major and G major concertos are, not surprisingly, just as wonderful.)
Grumiaux had a special rapport with pianist Clara Haskil, until her death in 1960. (Haskil was a fine violinist, and the two sometimes switched parts in rehearsal.) No team has played Mozart and Beethoven sonatas better. A wonderful example is Mozart’s Sonata in F, K. 376. And Grumiaux’s sympathy with Mozart extended to larger chamber-music settings. Not to be missed is the G minor Quintet, K. 516, performed by the Grumiaux Trio with the additions of Arpad Gérecz and Max Lesueur.
Grumiaux’s major concerto recordings compare favorably with anyone’s. But the Beethoven is perhaps the best match for his bright intensity of sound, technical ease, musical sensitivity, and energetic bowing. (Live video shows Grumiaux using extraordinary amounts of bow for this piece.) Among his three studio recordings, the version with Alceo Galliera and the New Philharmonica Orchestra may be the best.
Grumiaux’s encores don’t always match the level of such masters as Kreisler and Heifetz. But in a piece like the Romance by Johan Svendsen, his sincerity, sweetness, stylish rhythm, and subtle slides are irresistible.
Finally, Grumiaux’s Brahms Horn Trio with Sebők and Francis Orval shows him for the musical giant he was. In a work that can sound awkward and elusive, this trio plays with utter naturalness.