Eudice Shapiro (violin)
The Art of Eudice Shapiro – Concerto Soloist, Quartet Leader, Studio Musician
rec. 1944-1958
Biddulph 85025-2 [77]

The subtitle says it all. Eudice Shapiro had an elite career and is best remembered as the first violinist of the American Art Quartet (review), though she enjoyed a long career in the Hollywood studios and was a friend of Victor Young, two of whose imperishable melodies she plays in her role as a studio concertmistress (a quaint sounding title these days) cum soloist.

This CD contains the only known surviving example of Shapiro as a classical soloist, in Mozart’s ‘Turkish’, a performance recorded live by AFRS on 16” LP disc: AFRS issued records to American armed forces, hence the name. It’s a rather torrid affair, the recording beefy and up front and Shapiro seemingly caught up stylistically in the aura of her romantic training under Efrem Zimbalist at Curtis, though without his sense of taste. Some of her slides and finger position changes are – even for the time – in questionable taste but her fast vibrato and romanticised aura can be appreciated. Even so, there’s something not always under control about her playing, and with lashings of vibrancy in the slow movement, the intensity of the playing proves almost overpowering at times. I found a bit of a treble and volume cut helped. There’s rather odd phrasing at the end of the finale and if the performance as a whole is reflective of her musicianship at the age of 30, one can see why a career as a soloist was not the one for her.

Whereas a quartet leader proved a commendable choice, a perfect medium for her graceful and elegant playing. The 1953 quartet movements and popular sweetmeats derive from an album called ‘String Quartet Melodies’. With her quartet partners, Robert Sushel, violist Virginia Majewski and her husband, cellist, Victor Gottlieb, she essays some charmers including an especially warm performance of Tchaikovsky’s Andante cantabile, a resonant and melancholy arrangement of Fauré’s Après un rêve and a deliciously perfumed La Oración del torero by Turina. Frank Bridge’s Londonderry Air is taken a touch quicker than most recordings which adds to the sense of generously eager warmth of the piece, and Grainger’s Molly on the Shore is both rhythmically vital and richly textured. These quartet pieces many not sit at the apex of the group’s discography but they show flair for the medium.   

Shapiro soars over Paul Weston’s orchestra in Weston’s own arrangements of two Victor Young pieces, Je vous adore and Stella by Starlight. She ‘sings’ vibrantly on the former and in the soundboxy acoustic of the latter proves an eloquent focal point.

Wayne Kiley has contributed the good notes and the engineering and mastering has been done well though the Mozart Concerto doesn’t sound as if it was especially easy to deal with. If you’d like to encounter Shapiro’s expertise in the advertised ‘three card trick’ of the disc’s subtitle, here’s your chance.

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Jonathan Woolf

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No.5 in A, K.219 (1775)
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Frank Black
rec. August 1944, live by AFRS
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Scherzo from String Quartet in E minor (1837 rev 1839)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Andante cantabile from String Quartet in D Major, Op.11 (1871)
Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Italian Serenade in G major (1887)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Après un rêve, Op. 7 No. 1 (1878) arr Jaffe
Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)
La Oración del torero, Op. 34 (1925)
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
Serenade (1892) arr Hartman
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Polka from “The Age of Gold” (1930)
Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
An Irish Melody “Londonderry Air” (1908)
Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Molly on the Shore (1907)
American Art Quartet
rec. September 1953, on RCA Victor Bluebird
Vitor Young (1899-1956)
Je vous adore (c 1936)
Stella by Starlight (1944)
Paul Weston and his Orchestra
rec. 1958, on Columbia