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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
Erica Morini (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch
rec. live, 12 January 1962, Symphony Hall, Boston

Erica Morini (1904-1995), born in Vienna, was one of an elite group of female violinists whose careers peaked in the mid to late twentieth century. She can certainly be mentioned in the same breath as Ginette Neveu, Camilla Wicks, Gioconda De Vito, Johanna Martzy and Ida Haendel. She carved out a spectacular, international career for herself. She studied with the renowned pedagogue Otakar Ševčk, and made her dbut in 1916, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra under Arthur Nikisch. From then on she never looked back. She married the Italian art dealer Felice Siracusano in 1938 and emigrated to the United States, taking U.S. citizenship in 1943.

Morini’s substantial discography boasts a sizeable repertoire which focuses mainly on the classical romantic. She never made a commercial recording of the Beethoven Concerto but her discography lists three live airings. This version has, according to the listings, been previously issued on an obscure Japanese label Vibrato V(HL 149), which is not traceable on the internet.

Some low-grade background crackles at the beginning fade away as the Concerto gets under way. I am suprised by the good quality of the sound. The recording engineers managed to strike an ideal balance between soloist and orchestra. Charles Munch is wonderful in the opening tutti of the first movement. He carefully shapes every phrase, and the music truly speaks. Once the violin enters, we can fully savour the nobility and patrician elegance which Morini brings to this work. She commands a rich, warm, silken tone, nourished by a modest vibrato. Many violinists can only dream of her flawless intonation and effortless technical security. She plays the Joachim cadenza (not one of my favourites, I have to say).

Munch approaches the slow movement with deep expressivity. Morini’s playing is revelatory. It basks in the sublime lyricism of each phrase, which naturally dovetail with those of the orchestra. The finale sparkles with energy and vitality, and there is ample rhythmic punch. All concerned arrive at the finishing line with white heat and potent intensity. The audience respond accordingly.

The value and success of this enthralling live traversal more than compensates for the lack of a studio recording from Morini. It is certainly a performance I will be returning to.

Stephen Greenbank

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