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Devy Erlih (violin)
Legendary Treasures - Volume 2
Nicolň PAGANINI (1782-1840)
24 Caprices, Op 1 (1801-07) [79:42]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Sonata for solo, Sz.117, BB 124 (1944) [27:52]
André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Suite rhapsodique (1965) [17:42]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Elégie for Solo Violin (1944) [4:53]
rec. c. 1973, Paris
DOREMI DHR-8071-72 [70:59 + 71:35]

This is the second Doremi volume devoted to the recordings of Devy Erlih. Given Forgotten Records’ commitment to the violinist as well, things are set favourably for those who want to get to grips with his commercial discography whilst supplementing it with the kind of live broadcasts provided on Meloclassics.

His set of the Paganini Caprices was recorded in the early 1970s for Disques Adčs. There’s appreciable preserved LP rumble and a few clicks, though this last is a minor concern. The dry Parisian studio acoustic will not come as a surprise. Erlih plays with considerable commitment and is never a superficial or suave interpreter. Rather he digs into the material and characterises it with imagination and a sense of colour. Where he fails is in sheer pyrotechnical flair. The standard was set for the Caprices by Ruggiero Ricci but in time other interpreters matched and even surpassed his digital control and clarity. Alongside Ricci and especially Iwan Kawaciuk, the stunningly gifted Czech fiddler who recorded the set for Supraphon between 1956 and 1958 and whose wartime Dvořák Concerto I have been clamouring to have reissued, Erlih sounds somewhat effortful and even a little prosaic. To be frank he is soundly outclassed, left and right hand, by Kawaciuk, who keeps voicings motoring. Erlih tends to rely on musical commas to keep things on track. A few fingerboard incidents – try No.7 in A minor – show the sheer technical stress placed on performers in this repertoire and these, minor in themselves, show just how taxing the works remain. This is by no means a negligible recording of the Caprices and it will be of real interest to Erlih collectors but judged by the highest standards it was not really competitive when issued.

The remainder of the programme continues the solo theme to real advantage. The Bartók Sonata reminds one that Erlih recorded both Rhapsodies with composer-conductor Karel Husa (Forgotten Records FR449 - review) He plays the sonata with resinous drama and is particularly good in the long folklorically-inflected paragraphs. With apt tonal resources this is a crisp and stylistically probing reading. Jolivet’s Suite Rhapsodique was recorded in the presence of the composer and is a five-movement piece, the structure of which – with its Arias I and II – is clearly indebted to Stravinsky’s model. This has been reissued on CD before, on Lyrinx LYR242 and finds in Erlih a near-perfect interpreter, fully alive to the differentiation of tone in the dance movements of the music and the vocalised near-glissandi of the Aria II. Appropriately the twofer ends with the piece Stravinsky wrote in memory of the first violinist of the Pro Arte Quartet, the Elégie for solo violin.

The focus for this disc is almost exclusively the violinist and not the repertoire, and it’s good to know that Erlih is not being forgotten.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank

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