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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Devy Erlih (violin)
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)

Pastorale in A major, B.A16, Op.1 No.13 [8:36]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata for Solo Violin No.1 in G major, BWV1001 [18:24]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.7 in C minor, Op.30 No.2 (1801-02) [24:27]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Violin Sonata in G major, M77 (1923-27) [16:22]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen, Op.20 (1878) [7:43]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
La vida breve: Danse espagnole No.1 (1913) arr. Fritz Kreisler [3:11]
Maurice Bureau (piano)
rec. 15 December 1952, Salle Gaveau, Paris
MELOCLASSIC MC2024 [78:59]

Devy Erlih (1928-2012) has featured in a review or two of mine in the past and it would be good to think that his fairly recent death – he was killed when walking to teach at the École normale de musique in Paris – might stimulate some further reissues. The disc under discussion, however, is not of commercial material as it contains a recital given in Paris in December 1952.

Erlih was just 24, and yet to win the Long-Thibaud competition, which he was to do in 1955, the same year he made a critically acclaimed Wigmore Hall debut in London. His colleague Maurice Bureau, who also joined him for LP recordings in the 1950s, is the able accompanist. The programme shows his wares. First there is Tartini’s Pastorale, expressively contoured, with fine tone and canny dynamics. He catches the folkloric element in the second half of the piece without drawing undue attention to it. Then there is Bach. He played the Chaconne in his Wigmore Hall debut and later recorded a set of the solo sonatas and partitas for the Adès label. In the concert he essays the G minor solo violin sonata. One can hear some hard pressing on the fingerboard – the recording gets in close – and he takes an altogether very deliberate tempo for the finale. Overall he is rugged and emphatic and has a personal approach that sounds to me more reflective of the influence of Enescu than of his erstwhile teachers Boucherit and Thibaud. That’s not wholly surprising given Erlih’s parental background which was Romanian Jewish.

He and Bureau select Beethoven’s Op.30 No.2 sonata. As in the Bach there are a few trivial violinistic squeaks but the approach is commendably flexible and unsentimental. As yet the results can’t be said to be wholly representative of the artist he was to become but the buoyant and airily virtuosic finale point to a familiarity with the playing of Francescatti. He and Bureau later made a recording of Ravel’s Sonata for Ducretet-Thomson but this live performance demonstrates that the repertoire is very much, even then, his metier. His phrasing is interesting though he doesn’t have Francescatti’s cosmopolitan tonal reserves or his more assertive musicality. There are no unnecessary exaggerations in the Blues movement either and the music’s stylization is respected. A touch more rubati would have been welcome. Another work the two players recorded in 1957 for Ducretet-Thomson was Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. Here, live and earlier, they take a few more risks at a faster tempo. This youthful brio is marked by one or two rather luscious quick slides and the performance was clearly rewarded with enthusiastic applause, as one can hear its start, though it’s been excised. The recital ends with Falla’s La vida breve, again a touch faster than their later commercial recording on LP.

The sound is a touch boxy and recessed but has been well restored. You can hear some rumble, presumably from the original transcription discs or tapes. One thing I need to point out is that the gaps between pieces are too short.

You can find more Erlih on Forgotten Records FR298 (review) and FR328, which contain the studio Ravel, Sarasate and Falla, which were regular recital pieces of his, as well as the Ropartz sonata (review) and the Bach concertos (review). Here however Meloclassic has upped its game with a classy English-language booklet to replace the glued in notes, and a change of colour. The result is a fine addition to Erlih’s regrettably small current discography.

Jonathan Woolf



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