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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra in C major, Op. 56 [32:07]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102 [33:39]
Devy Erlih (violin); Guy Fallot (cello); Monique Fallot (piano)
Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ernest Bour
rec. 1956/57. Mono

I must applaud the efforts of Forgotten records in helping restore the reputation of the French violinist Devy Erlih, sadly underrated, and there are nine CDs mined from his discography in their catalogue to date. He was born in Paris in 1928, the son of Moldovan-Jewish immigrants and 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. 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. Sadly, his life came to a tragic end. 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.

I've never quite understood why the Triple Concerto is something of a Cinderella amongst Beethoven's concertos. Maybe it's more down to the logistics and cost of staging it - I'm not sure. What I am certain of is that I'm very fond of it indeed, and cherish my Perlman/Yo Yo Ma/Barenboim recording of it, the finest I've heard. On this 1956 recording, Erlih's partners are brother and sister team Monique and Guy Fallot. I have to admit that I've never heard of them before. The first test for me with this concerto is the sublime slow movement, and I always make a beeline for it, and this performance certainly ticks all the boxes, with all three soloists interweaving eloquently. It's the finale that disappoints. For some reason, unlike the first two movements, the spark just isn't there, and it never really takes off. It all sounds rather pedestrian and staid. Maybe it was set down in a different session, who knows?

In the Brahms Double Concerto we have two soloists with a single vision, singing off the same hymn sheet; there's a tangible affinity between them. Bour is an inspirational conductor and draws the very best from his orchestra and soloists. The opening movement has muscularity and is nicely paced with the soloists expertly balanced in the mix. In the slow movement Erlih and Fallot blend admirably, savouring the radiant lyricism with heartfelt candour. The finale abounds with energy and passion.

The recordings have been culled and remastered from Ducretet-Thomson LPs, which have withstood the ravages of time admirably.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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