Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Erica Morini in Concert
19th Century Concertos
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)

Violin Concerto No. 9 in D minor (1820)
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)

Violin Concerto in G minor Op. 26 (1868)
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor Op. 22 (1862)
Erica Morini (violin)
Musica Aeterna Orchestra/Frederic Waldman
Recorded live 1963-68
ARBITER 106 [74.27]


This is a doubly felicitous release as it gives us concerto performances recorded privately in the 1960s and also enlarges Morini’s discography. She recorded the Bruch G minor with the Berlin Radio Symphony and Fricsay but neither the Spohr nor the Wieniawski were otherwise commercially recorded. A Sevcik student at the age of seven, Trieste-born Morini made her debut with Nikisch at the age of twelve and was soon taking prestigious engagements as well as embarking on a series of recordings for Grammophon and Polydor in the 1920s. Despite early success in America in 1930 – and renewed ones following her enforced emigration a few years later - her career slowly petered out. The unpleasant details of the theft of her Stradivarius and all personal papers shortly after her death aged ninety-one in 1995 make for grim reading.

These performances with Frederic Waldman and his Musica Aeterna Orchestra were recorded privately on acetate by a pupil of the conductor’s. Though Morini was tagged the Word’s Greatest Woman Violinist – a publicist’s puff if ever there was one and a self-limiting one to boot – she was indeed an unusually refined and elegant player. She had a small tone, lyrically deployed, with a strong albeit not invincible (but still remarkable) technique, reliable intonation but without a distinctive tonalist’s colouration. This could work to her advantage in baroque and classical works but was sometimes less than ideal in broader more obviously romanticised canvases (though she was admired in Brahms and Tchaikovsky).

The acoustic is quite dry but acceptably so and the acetates have come up fresh and full of detail. One immediately notices in the first of the performances, that of the Spohr (recorded in 1963 and the earliest of the trio), that Morini’s vibrato is extremely sparing. She makes one particularly gauche slide in the opening Allegro but otherwise her portamenti are as sparing as her vibrato is controlled though there are no lack of finger position changes and other intensifying devices to wring colour and spice from the score. Problems reside in her lower two strings which by this time – she was 62 – sound rather dry and unwarmed and her lack of charismatic power at climaxes and before orchestral tutti. The upper strings sound - in Morini’s terms – fine, sweet and tight but the disparity between them and the consequent unequalized scale is quite noticeable. The result is rather a case of two distinct voices; tight and sweet upper and far more slow and dull sounding lower. There is a compensatory amount of sheer elegance in the slow movement and some elfin playing as well – mobility and technical address - and in the finale her dancing confidence is spiced with delicious humour. The Bruch (from 1966) opens chastely, without theatrical flourish (but with a momentarily distracting pre-echo). Morini avoids the oratorical and deigns to dig into the string; she’s not for making a big sound, preferring instead clarity of passagework and forward-looking drive without specious drama. She controls the line of the Adagio with affectionate generosity but again the vibrato usage is idiosyncratic and in some ways pre-Kreislerian in its abjuring of constant application. In the finale, attractively played and phrased though it is, the lack of tonal opulence may come as a burden for those used to more passionate and powerful players.

The Wieniawski features a nice flautist who sparkles in the Allegro moderato opening movement (and distracts one perhaps from Morini’s temporary flatness). Her playing should in toto be seen as independent of the prevailing orthodoxy or orthodoxies of then contemporary violin playing. This is a work that one associates most strongly with Elman, Heifetz and Stern and their individual sonorities could not be more distinct from Morini’s way with the work. Some of her passagework sounds scratchy (maybe not helped by the recording) and tonally somewhat unlovely but there are piquant slides and a general stylishness that can communicate something of her obvious appeal. Waldman is a robust collaborator and he points the slow movement to good effect allowing her to shape the line with affection. There is occasional lack of colour in her playing – as in the finale – and the coolish temperament is not what might look for in a work like this but there’s little doubting her fine style and sense of momentum.

This is one of a number of Morini discs that Arbiter have in their catalogue. With Allan Evans’s useful notes and some nice accompanying details – programmes, photographs – this is a tempting prospect. Those who want to acquaint themselves further with Erica Morini’s very individual talent will find much to occupy them here.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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