Audiophile Audition​ 2005

By Gary Lemco, 2005 

Born a generation after the golden age of violinists, Camilla Wicks (b.1928) studied with her musician parents and then went on to work with Louis Persinger, the master who influenced Menuhin, Bustabo and Ricci. Emphasizing beauty of tone, color, and projection of expression, Persinger refined Wicks’ style, as did a brief period of study with Henri Temianka. In her early teens, Wicks was already a seasoned artist, capable of playing the Saint-Saens B Minor Concerto and the Glazounov A Minor with efficiency and polish. By 1942, Wicks made her lifelong association with the Sibelius Concerto, whose recording in 1952 with
Sixten Ehrling was destined to become a classic collectors’ item. “Mr. Ehrling was wonderful,” offered Wicks. “Some had criticized him as being intolerant and authoritarian, but I felt he simply would not put up with shoddy musicianship. He knew what he wanted. The performance is being reissued, with its pitch distortions adjusted. Ehrling was recording the Sibelius symphonies in the hall; and in the course of the day, the acoustic would shift, and my notes came out somewhat flat.” More …

In several respects, Wicks’ career began to parallel that of her contemporary Ginette Neveu, but without the tragedy. A combination of dash and dynamism, wedded to a fine technique and a piercing, sweet tone made her performances quite irresistible to auditors.

The 15 February 1953 collaboration on the Beethoven Concerto with Bruno Walter brings us a high-flown performance, often ablaze with passion and conviction, with the Kreisler cadenza plied in a bravura fashion.  “He took the Beethoven at his own tempo, which was quite brisk,” offered Wicks in our telephone interview. “I had imagined the piece in just this way, so I loved it.”  For the performance Wicks projects a visceral, eloquent violin part, both impetuous and soulful. Audience communication with the soloist is quite palpable as the intensity mounts here and in the 1950 Standard Hour Tchaikovsky collaboration with Fiedler and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. No less impassioned is the movement from Baal Shem, Nigun taped 28 May
1950, again with John Barnett. The declamatory, weaving incantations and the expressive ardour of the meditation reach astonishing heights without sacrificing the dignity of the occasion. 

The Tchaikovsky movement has a taut incandescence, keeping one slightly off balance emotionally with the dazzling fioritura of the display and uncanny, quick finger work.  Her high flute-tone can be quite effective, even eerie, as it is in the Sibelius excerpt. No less intriguing to collectors should be the Simax issue (PSC 1185) of live concerts (1968, 1985) of the Walton Concerto and Brustad Fourth Concerto, the latter with Herbert Blomstedt.  I asked Wicks about her 1946 performance of the Wieniawski D Minor Concerto with Leopold Stokowski. “A company wanted to issue this collaboration, but I refused to permit it. Stokowski either could not, or would not, meet my tempo for the last movement and the result was too sloppy for my taste.”