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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major, K207 [17:34]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K211 [17:03]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 [27:24]
Devy Erlih (violin)
Orchestra des Concerts Lamoureux/Arthur Goldschmidt (Mozart)
Südwestfunk Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden/Ernest Bour (Mendelssohn)
rec. January 1952, Paris (Mozart); 7 July 1957, Baden-Baden (Mendelssohn)

Devy Erlih was born in Paris in 1928, the son of Moldovan-Jewish immigrants. He inherited his musical gifts from his father who was a folk musician, playing cimbalom and pan-pipes and running a cafe orchestra. Young Devy soon took to the stage and became the star attraction, learning and playing the violin by ear. His talent acknowledged, he eventually went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire with Jules Boucherit, teacher of Ginette Neveu, Henri Temianka and Michèle Auclair. His studies were interrupted by the Second World War, but when they resumed he took the Conservatoire’s Première Prix and his international career was launched. He won the Long-Thibaud Competition in 1955. His travels took him around Europe, to the United States and as far afield as Japan.

He found his niche from early on in contemporary music including Bartók, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. He premiered concertos by Darius Milhaud, Bruno Maderna, Henri Sauguet and Henri Tomasi and was an enthusiastic champion of the music of André Jolivet, whose Violin Concerto and Suite rhapsodique he premiered in 1972. He later married Jolivet’s daughter, Christine. On the morning of 7 February 2012 he was fatally hit by a reversing lorry on his way to the École normale de musique, Paris, where he was still teaching; he was 83.

The two Mozart concertos were recorded in Paris in 1952 and were issued on a French LP – La Voix de Son Maitre (FALP 152). Both are rather briskly-paced performances and, as a result, the grace, elegance and charm is sacrificed to some extent. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Arthur Goldschmidt isn’t one to hang around, and gives the impression of pushing the tempo forward, Erlih’s phenomenal technique is up to the mark and his articulation and phrasing remain precise and well-defined. I would have preferred the readings to be less frenetic, thus being able to savour the music and bask in the violinist’s gleaming virtuosity and informed musicianship to a greater extent. Goldschmidt is a name I’m not familiar with, and I find his conducting uninspired, resulting in a lack of sympathy between him and his soloist.

Ernest Bour, on the other hand, is a more supportive partner in the Mendelssohn Concerto from 1957. It is a vital and engaging performance, with both the violinist and orchestra superbly balanced. Erlih’s rich, warm tone is invested with a wealth of tonal colour. His technical agility and pristine intonation guarantee the performance’s success. The Andante is expressive, eloquent and heartfelt. This violinist’s crisply incisive articulation and rhythmic vitality in the finale set the seal on a seductive rendition. The recording is taken from a Ducretet-Thomson LP (255 C 048).

Stephen Greenbank



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