Born in Marseille in 1902, Zino Francescatti's life spanned almost the entirety of the twentieth century. He made his public debut aged 10, playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and went on to become one of the century's most celebrated violinists.
Violinist Jacques Thibaud helped to promote Francescatti in his early career after hearing him at a concert in Paris. Francescatti also often collaborated with Maurice Ravel: the pair undertook a duo tour of Britain in 1926, playing Ravel's recent works such as Tzigane. Francescatti's sound was characterized by his bright, silvery tone, and a near-constant vibrato.
This live recording was made at the 1958 edition of the Salzburger Festspiele. The Wiener Philharmoniker was directed by the Greek conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, who had quickly become closely associated with the festival following the death of Wilhelm Furtwängler in 1954. Mitropoulos, who was described as "ascetic yet brilliant", had an excellent memory and often conducted without a score even in rehearsals.
In a review of this performance, the Viennese critic Heinrich Neumayer described Francescatti as wholly deserving of his reputation as a "Paganini-class technician." In fact, Francescatti could claim his violinistic lineage back to Paganini himself; his father Fortunato had studied with Camillo Sivori, allegedly Paganini's sole pupil. Francescatti was trained solely by his parents (his mother was also a violinist) and did not pass through any of the major conservatories.