MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

alternatively AmazonUK

Henry Merckel – Celebrated Historical Recordings: 1930-35
Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, op.61 (1880) (rec. 27 June 1935) [25:19]
Danse Macabre, op.49 (1875) (rec. 4 April 1930) [7:00]*
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie Espagnole, op.21 (1873) (rec. 15/16 February, 1932) [31:33]
Concerto Russe:  Intermezzo (1879) (rec. 27 June, 1935) [4:26]
Henry Merckel (violin)
L’Orchestre des Concert Pasdeloup/Piero Coppola
Orchestra/Philippe Gaubert *
MUSIC & ARTS CD1178 [66.17]

During the course of my review of Malibran’s first volume of their L’Ecole Franco-Belge de Violon I wondered aloud that it mightn’t have been better to have substituted Merckel’s Symphonie espagnole for Lola Bobesco’s, attractive though that was (see review). That would have made for a well-deserved, previously un-reissued all-Merckel disc. Two years later my hopes have been realised by Music & Arts.†
Henry Merckel - I’ve seen both Henry and Henri given as first names in French and English language sources, though on my 78s it’s Henry and Henry that is surely the correct usage - was a distinguished player, born in Paris in 1897. Like many another elite violinist he became concertmaster whilst also managing to pursue a necessarily limited career as a soloist. He led the Paris Opera Orchestra for nearly forty years and was successively concertmaster of the orchestras of the Concerts Straram and the Sociťtť des Concerts du Conservatoire. He was leading the last named when he made the recordings enshrined in this disc.
His Symphonie espagnole was the first on disc to contain the Intermezzo; an earlier recording with Ysaˇe pupil Leo Strockoff - who always claimed to have recorded it complete with Hamilton Harty - was issued without it whilst Menuhin’s recording came slightly later. Merckel’s playing is a roll-call of Gallic sensibility. The lexicon of piquant colouristic devices and ear-titillating slides is bewitching. Above all Merckel characterises with great individuality and depth; there’s a rather feminine cast to this kind of playing, a pliant, small-toned but incessantly varied palette that keeps one intoxicated. Of Merckel’s French colleagues the older Thibaud, in his two live recordings – the 1941 Ansermet on APR is the better known but there’s a later German broadcast on Tahra – possesses a greater oratorical breadth, whilst the very slightly younger Francescatti (Cluytens, 1946) is cleaner, clearer - and whilst still distinctly Gallic - that much more masculine and cosmopolitan.
The suggestive liquidity of Merckel’s playing is best savoured in the Scherzando, a bewitching display of sweet and tightly toned brilliance, flecked with rapid portamenti, neither as sensuously inward as Thibaud nor as elevated as Francescatti. In the Andante he takes a tempo equidistant between both his august French peers and presents a beautifully vocalised lament, his timbral shading never veering toward over-vibration. His trills in the finale are deliciously quick though not quite of optimum electric velocity; elsewhere he exemplifies French style in all he does, arguably even more so than Thibaud, though no one ever possessed Thibaud’s sensual tonal reserves.
The Saint-SaŽns Concerto was recorded three years later. Once again we find expected divergences in approach. Merckel employs elfin, highly expressive, and perfumed tonal resources. Francescatti is more direct and assertive with a broader tone. There may be hearers who might occasionally tire of Merckel’s incessant colour – too much “business” – but not, I think, of the first movement’s fluid portamenti or the floated sound. The slow movement is pure avian songfulness, the finale verdant, aerial and athletic. Merckel proves a master of rhythmic incision, witty characterisation, as well as flexible and wonderful bowing.†
There are two other valuable additions. Lalo’s Intermezzo from his Concerto Russe was recorded at the same time as the Saint-SaŽns and we savour Merckel’s pirouetting over the orchestra and exploring some of the more deliciously schmaltzy areas of the movement. Then there’s the vibrant and evergreen Danse Macabre, which is relished with unselfconscious brio and no little charm. Incidentally though this is credited in the booklet documentation to the Concert Pasdeloup and Piero Coppola I was always under the impression that this was actually an unidentified band directed by Philippe Gaubert.
A similar programme was issued on the Japanese label Opus Kura – minus the Concerto Russe Intermezzo – but this was very hard to track down and I’ve not encountered a copy. Music & Arts have used good originals and judiciously transferred them to fine effect. Their notes are cogent and biographically helpful.
This is a truly delicious disc, and the coterie of Merckel admirers can here savour his very special musicianship in works entirely congenial to him.
Jonathan Woolf




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.