Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto in A minor BWV1041 (1717-23) [16:02] ¹
Violin Concerto in E BWV1042 (1717-23) [19:07] ²
Concerto for two violins and orchestra in D minor BWV1043 (1717-23) [16:20] ¹ ²
Concerto for violin, oboe and orchestra in C minor BWV1060 [16:21] ³
Concerto for keyboard and orchestra in D minor, BWV1052 [23:59]
Concerto for keyboard and orchestra in A, BWV1055 [14:55]
Concerto for keyboard and orchestra in F minor, BWV1056 [9:46]
Devy Erlih (violin) ¹ and Henry Merckel (violin) ²
Reinhold Barchet (violin)/Kurt Kalmus (oboe) ³
Rudolf Reinhardt (harpsichord)
Pro Chamber Orchestra Munich/Kurt Redel
rec. October 1954 (Keyboard Concertos) and April 1955 (remainder)
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 275-76 [68:03 + 48:43]
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 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 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.  

Jonathan Woolf  

Never less than interesting.