It’s rather heartening to see that there are now competing
versions of Devy Erlih and Henry Merckel’s 1955 Bach concerto
recordings with Kurt Redel. You’ll find that Opus Kura
has reissued them, too, on OPK7043, but Forgotten Records has
decided to expand to a twofer and has added Rudolf Reinhardt’s
excellent keyboard concertos with the same conductor and, once
again, his Pro Chamber Orchestra Munich.
Erlih is something of a cult player and I’ve written about
him before (see review
His performance of the A minor Concerto is well balanced with
a present-sounding harpsichord. He essays a few discreet portamenti,
and takes a warmly lingering tempo in the slow movement, with
a goodish finale. Co-ordination throughout is first-class. Henry
Merckel, about whom I’ve also written extensively (review
takes the companion solo concerto. His tone is a lot more nasal
than in his heyday in the 1930s, but his crunchier and wiry
playing is strongly distinguishable from that of Erlih’s
more streamlined performance. He plays many more portamenti
than Erlih, and there’s some fragility in intonation,
but he’s never less than interesting.
Together they play the Double Concerto, a rising star with a
fading lion, as Merckel was 31 years Erlih’s senior. The
disparities in tonal projection are not as apparent as one might
have expected, and there is a strong rapport in the slow movement.
The solo lines are well delineated. Reinhold Barchet and Kurt
Kalmus join for a welcome and rewarding Concerto for violin
and oboe, and this performance is also on the Opus Kura CD already
noted. Barchet is a stylish Bachian and together with Kalmus
he offers a rather different take on things from Erlih and Merckel.
The second disc is given over to Reinhardt’s performances
of three keyboard concertos. These are less well remembered
than the French players’ recordings but offer well-balanced,
finely articulated, somewhat sonically heavy readings but ones
that are sensitively shaped. Tempi are reasonable, rhythms are
well aerated. There’s an avoidance of the lugubrious or
over-lingering, which is welcome.
So in a sense the Opus Kura and this Forgotten Records discs
are only semi-competing. If you want to keep things simple,
and aim for an all-string disc, which includes Reinhold Barchet
and Kurt Kalmus in the concerto for violin and oboe, you can
stick with Opus Kura’s slightly warmer transfer but one
which also enshrines rather more audible LP rumble. If you want
to branch out to include the keyboard concertos, then you’ll
be rewarded with good 1954 sound and solidly impressive performances.
As I completed this review I learned of the death of Devy Erlih.
He was leaving his teaching duties at the École normale
de Musique, was hit by a car, and died of his injuries.