It's been a while since we had a Friday Historical, so here's a particularly wonderful one. This is the violin voice of Jelly d'Aranyi, inspiration to Bartok, Ravel, Poulenc (who wrote her a sonata but then, annoyingly, destroyed it) and apparently even a besotted elderly Elgar. It seems that Vaughan Williams wrote her a violin concerto, too, which she performed in 1925. When you hear her sound — the fabulous accuracy of pitch, the intense eloquence of the bow, the innate sense of ebb and flow, the feel for nuance — you can tell exactly what inspired them.
This recording of the Vitali Chaconne was made in 1928 when the Hungarian-born, UK-resident violinist, about 35, was at the height of her very considerable powers, and the sound quality here is surprisingly good. The photo is signed to her beloved niece, Adrienne. Note Jelly's extraordinary handwriting — as expansive and strong as her ravishing tone.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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