If your yen is for, say, Aaron Rosand or for another violinist
who has given us such valuable repertoire in performances of
vitality, personalised brilliance and nuance - let’s take
Louis Kaufman - then you can go to a number of reissuing labels.
But if you want recordings by Devy Erlih, a ‘cult’
fiddler less well known than they, then you must go to Forgotten
I’ve reviewed his recordings on the label before and now
it’s an opportunity to listen to his Lalo. In October
1956 the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Désiré-Émile
Inghelbrecht, assembled in the Théâtre des Champs
Elysées, Paris, to record the Symphonie espagnole
with the young Erlih. By now recordings of the four movement
version, usually undertaken by Russian violinists and particularly
by pupils of Leopold Auer, were becoming mercifully rare. Erlih,
naturally, plays the five movement version. His tonal ethos
is not really Gallic in the way that Thibaud’s or Henry
Merckel’s was. There was a more cosmopolitan cut about
him, and he didn’t sound much like Zino Francescatti either.
His musical personality, though buoyant, wasn’t as projective
as theirs; it was often exciting, frequently elastically phrased,
but not always tonally seductive.
He plays with lightness and wristy elegance in the Scherzando.
Inghelbrecht sets quite a dour tempo for the ensuing Intermezzo
(the movement the Russians often cut) though this does allow
Erlih to spin a provocative dance in the contrasting central
section. The Andante lacks the sheer warmth that Coppola
provided for Merckel in their pre-war 78 set, but its austerity
is not unattractive in its own way. Quick slides animate the
Rondo finale, which, again, is not over-pressed tempo-wise.
In terms of the recording, the LPO play decently though the
winds are recessed in the balance.
As a makeweight we get conductor and orchestra alone in the
charmingly coloured snapshot that is Rapsodie norvégienne.
This excellently transferred disc faithfully reproduces Ducretet-Thomson
320-C124, which means that the playing time is short. But if
Erlih is your priority, which it assuredly has to be here, then
you will find here more evidence of his always interesting playing.