Heinrich Wilhelm ERNST (1812-1865)

Complete music for Violin and Piano - Volume 2
Fantaisie brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d’Otello de Rossini Op.11 (1837-38) [13:31]
Boléro Op.16 (1842) [7:29]
Deux Romances (1841) [5:55]
Souvenir du Pré aux Clercs, written with Charles Schunke (1834) [17:32]
Pensées Fugitives Part 1, written with Stephen Heller (1839-42) [17:38]
Variations brillantes sur un thème de Rossini Op.4 (1829-30) [17:37]
Sherban Lupu (violin)
Ian Hobson (piano)
rec. October 2010, Foellinger Great Hall of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois
I reviewed the first volume in this comprehensive, pioneering series with great pleasure and feel the same way about the second release. As before, the fully idiomatic and nerveless duo of Sherban Lupu and Ian Hobson take the honours — for expressive variety, technical excellence and ensemble assurance.
Each work has some defining feature or features to compel interest, though maximum interest will, I think, be focused on violin fanciers whose range of experience will be richly enhanced by the three works that have never been previously recorded. The first of that trio is Souvenir du Pré aux Clercs, written with Charles Schunke (1801-39), who had been appointed pianist to the French queen. The two men fashioned something out of Ferdinand Hérold’s last work, an opera premiered in 1832. It’s been securely presented by Toccata which allocates a separate track to the introduction, theme, series of variations, cadenza, andante and finale. This is a work where the piano part proves to be every bit as formidable as that for the violin, if not more so. Technical difficulties begin to accumulate as the variations develop, and there is a droll quality to the writing too, and a joint cadenza in which ensemble pitfalls are manifold, and a finale full of élan, lightning fast left hand pizzicato and lashings of audacity.
Pensées Fugitives Part 1, written with Stephen Heller (1839-42), is another premier recording. The Hungarian pianist Heller based himself in Paris, and shunned virtuosic music after an early breakdown. Ernst’s philanthropy — he wanted to help Heller financially — was laudable and the joint work reflects the sense of lyricism and romanticism that Heller sought in composition. The six charmers are character pieces, somewhat reminiscent of Mendelssohn — though Mendelssohn equally knew of Heller and Ernst, so it’s by no means one way traffic. Songful and charming they are performed with impeccable attention to detail.
The last of the previously unrecorded works is Variations brillantes sur un thème de Rossini which was probably Ernst’s first published work. This is a real Paganinian blockbuster with coruscating technical demands; the second variation is an especially arduous test of intonation, which Ernst himself must have passed heroically; and there’s bravura aplenty in the fourth variation as well. After the Last Rose of Summer variations the Fantaisie brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d’Otello de Rossini must be Ernst’s most recorded work. David Oistrakh and Ruggiero Ricci recorded it. Lupu loses little in comparison, keeping things alive timbrally and expressively throughout — his sense of colour shading is exemplary, and Hobson’s pianism outstanding. This feast of articulation, finger position changes, mastery of colour, and subtlety of vibrato usage exemplifies all that is best in Ernst’s writing and indeed in these performances. Note how Lupu’s vibrato widens and intensifies for the ‘pathetic’ sensibility summoned up in the Romance section. As if this were not enough, we have the luxury of the Boléro with its amiable warmth and the two Romances, where cantabile warmth and lilting lyricism are the names of the game.
Top notch recording quality and an outstanding booklet note complete this exemplary offering.
Jonathan Woolf
This exemplary offering.