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Erica Morini and Rudolf Firkušný  – Sonata Recital
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata in E flat K481 (1785) [23:20]
Violin Sonata in C K296 – Andante sostenuto only (1778) [5:28]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.7 in C Op.30 No.2 (1802) [24:44]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No.3 in D Op.108 (1888) [20:21]
Hungarian Dance in A arranged Joseph Joachim [2:15] *
Erica Morini  (violin)
Rudolf Firkušný (piano)
Michael Raucheisen (piano) *
Rec. live in concert.1959 and 1961; the Brahms Dance recorded commercially for Polydor in Berlin in 1927
ARBITER 151 [78:30]

We shouldn’t be surprised by now that Arbiter has unearthed yet more live Morini but I have to admit I was highly delighted to see that her rare collaborations with Firkušný had been preserved. Collectors will of course know their joint Decca recordings which I last saw on MCA Classics MCAD2 99828 – Beethoven sonatas 3, 5, 7 and 8; Mozart K481 and Brahms Op.108. Those recordings were the direct result of a Decca executive having heard these live performances - and now here is the chance to hear them on the wing in those same concerts.
The Mozart sonata was performed live on 20 January 1961; the Decca recording followed in April of the same year. The recording isn’t ideal – it’s rather dim and a touch crumbly with a degree of inherent hiss. It doesn’t catch fortes with any great range. Still, what we have is yet more evidence of the generation of a greater sense of give and take in a live performance. Timings don’t tell the story but phrasing does. Beautifully though Morini plays in the Decca her playing in the live slow movement is more rapt still – with a beguiling simplicity and some discreet portamenti that she expunged when it came to the recording. Diminuendi are more pronounced and daring in the concert as well – even if her intonation in the first movement is not always reliable. Firkušný too plays with a slightly greater element of freedom and flexibility; they make for a highly sympathetic and understanding duo, a fact of which they were themselves aware.
The Beethoven Sonata in C is from the same concert; for Decca it was recorded on 19 October 1961. The recording can’t quite reproduce the memorable bass etching – like a great portraitist – that Firkušný sculpts on the commercial disc but as before the incision rate from both musicians is a touch higher. The slow movement is a degree more touching and affectionate live even if Morini’s tone does come across as a little bit thinner than in the studio. Though the finale is taken at the same tempo it’s a privilege to hear the subtle modifications of detail and emphasis from both musicians.
The Brahms sonata is the earliest dating from 30 December 1959; the Decca recording followed nearly three years later in October 1962. Perhaps this is the reason why the differences between live and studio performances are that much more pronounced than the companion sonatas, though the basic tempo relationships are very much aligned. There are no dramatic differences only subtle ones. The sound of this live concert is also the best of the three. The opening movement is more lithe than the Decca, which sounds just a touch stately in comparison; the sense of communing intimacy is the better expressed live, no question, fine though the Decca is. Morini’s tone is broader in 1959, the vibrato oscillations more pronounced, the tempo a touch more relaxed. Firkušný proves a great Brahmsian, eloquent and controlled, full of colour and fantasy – and power when required. There’s a lot more agitato in the finale live; it’s not, once again, a question of timing so much as intensity of accents and a greater sense of dynamism and drama. This is the performance that I think is objectively more successful than the Decca; the other two are superb however one looks at them.
As bonuses we have one movement from K296, which wasn’t recorded in the studio – the rest of the sonata alas was compromised by interference. Then there’s a delicious sliver of an interview with the two musicians full of bonhomie and warmth. And finally Brahms’s Hungarian Dance in A from a 1927 Polydor session Morini made with Michael Raucheisen. 
We’re fortunate to have this documentary evidence of the two musicians’s rare recitals. There a colour photograph of them together and some evocative archive concert programmes given by Firkušný with Talich (pre-War in Prague and Amsterdam). How often did Firkušný play Pavel Borkovec’s Piano Concerto?  This is an excellent release and admirers of both Morini and Firkušný will want to hear it.
Jonathan Woolf



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