Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie espagnole, Op. 24 (1874) [34:06]
Rapsodie norvégienne (1879) [11:41]
Devy Erlih (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht
rec. October 1956, Théâtre des Champs Elysees, Paris

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 Records.
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.
Jonathan Woolf

Often exciting, frequently elastically phrased, but not always tonally seductive.