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Erica Morini – Volume 3
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Violin Concerto in D major Op.61 [42.15]
New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann, recorded September 1944
Violin Sonata in F major Op.24 Spring [18.32]
N Schwalb, recorded November 1927
Erica Morini (violin) with accompanists as above
DOREMI DHR 7783 [60.51]
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Erica Morini left no commercial recording of the Beethoven concerto – which makes this disc so rewarding an event. It was taken down live in 1944 and issued on vinyl disc under the auspices of the overseas branch of the American Office of War Information. She was partnered by Vladimir Golschmann who conducted the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York, as it then still was. There is fairly constant surface scuffing throughout and there’s no getting away from that fact. Additionally the sound picture is rather recessed and could do with a boost though this was clearly a somewhat difficult set with which to do restorative battle.

What we do have is a performance of great charm. Her tempo for the opening movement (you’ll have to disregard the booklet’s timings – they’re all wrong) isn’t especially slow but it seems slower than it is principally because of the conductor’s rather slack rhythm. Morini’s Trieste-cum-Viennese lyricism is intact, as is her electric trill and very expressive lingering. The slow movement is full of sentiment and attractive, though the surface of the preserved discs is rather scuffy. The finale is rich in light portamenti and silvery tone – you’ll have to get used to some preserved scrunch – and pleasingly buoyant. It’s certainly not a great performance, for various reasons, but a splendid addition to the Morini discography, imperfections as noted.

Coupled with it is her Berlin 1927 recording of the Spring Sonata. Here she is light and wristy, with far more portamenti that she used in the live concerto performance. There’s a rather dodgy side join at 3.23 and the surface noise has been rather dampened down to eliminate it - to my ears too much. Listening to the German Electrola 78s set – Doremi have transferred an English HMV if the booklet pictures are an indication – I think a fraction more of the upper frequencies could have been preserved. Still, you’ll hear a different kind of performance to her recording on LP many years later with Firkušny, with whom she formed a congenial partnership. There the vibrato had slowed, the portamenti had withered and the traversal was slacker. I know many people rate the series of sonata discs they made highly but I prefer the 1927 recording for all that her rhythm is unstable in the first movement. There’s a really expressive approach to colour and a deliciously extreme couple of portamenti in the slow movement, reserved humour in the scherzo (not made enough of) and more expression in the finale. It’s certainly not in the top echelon of recordings made pre-LP but it preserves a performance, abetted by Schwalb, of character and personality, as well as instrumental distinction.

This is the third in Doremi’s Morini edition and I note that they’ve already done much to restore her 78 legacy, including her 1921-22 acoustics. Long may that worthy retrieval continue.

Jonathan Woolf





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