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The Art of Erica Morini
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)

Violin Sonata in D (arr. Respighi)
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 22 – Romance
Capriccio-Valse Op. 7
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Pièce en forme de Habañera (arr Catherine)
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Waltz from Fantasy on Gounod’s Faust
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Hungarian Dances arr. Joseph Joachim
No. 17 in F sharp minor
No. 6 in B flat
No. 5 in G minor
No. 7 in A
No. 8 in A minor
No. 1 in G minor
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Violin Concerto in D Op. 35
Erica Morini (violin) with
Max Lanner (piano) except
Artur Balsam (piano) in the Brahms
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Désiré Defauw in the Tchaikovsky
Recorded 1941-45
BIDDULPH BID 80168 [69.47]


Erica Morini was born in Trieste, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1904. Though her father was Italian, her mother was Viennese and the family moved to Vienna where Erica studied with her father who had been a student of Joachim, before moving to the Conservatoire to follow studies with Grün and, at nine years of age, with Ševčik. There was an accelerated, wunderkind aura about her and her debut three years later was conducted by Oskar Nebdal no less. Thereafter success came quickly on the Continent, Britain and in America until her retirement in 1976. I’ve written extensively about Morini in relation to her Arbiter and Music and Arts releases, much of which preserve live performances of works otherwise unrecorded commercially, and it’s been an exceptionally engaging experience to contrast the two recordings she left us of the Tchaikovsky (the other was recorded in London with Rodzinski) a discography recently augmented by Music and Arts’ retrieval of her live 1957 Paris performance with Horenstein.

This Defauw led recording, made with his Chicago orchestra in December 1945, is the fleetest and most technically adroit of the surviving traversals. It helps that her conductor was himself a violinist and a most sympathetic collaborator. Even judged against her contemporaries in this repertoire, the molten if slow Elman, the intense razor-sharp Heifetz, the patrician elegance of Francescatti, the muscularity of Stern, the expressive depth of Oistrakh, she still managed to carve out her own niche. Though she had a small tone with a limited vibrato – her training with Ševčik was quite distinct from that of, say, her Russian contemporaries – she was still able to compete in the romantic masterpieces. Others before her who lacked opulent tonal resources, Zimbalist say, managed to compete in the competitive American market, albeit at a lower level. The clarity of her bowing in the opening movement is without question and her technique is strong and resilient. She’s stylish with some occasionally business-like passagework; tonally speaking her lower two strings don’t sound quite as much as the upper two but I liked her easeful slides in the Andante at a good forward tempo. The portamenti are endemic in this movement but are executed with such sophisticated taste as to be natural constituents of her armoury of expressive nuance. Her finale is energized but not motoric – much faster than Horenstein, significantly more incisive than Rodzinski.

We also have a mixed programme of Victors recorded between 1941-45. Her Vivaldi in the Respighi arrangement is very cleanly articulated with delicious diminuendi and crescendi. Her vibrato in the little Largo is quite fast and the finale is lightly and discriminatingly projected, not at all masculine. She was always fond of Wieniawski – Arbiter has issued a complete Second Concerto – and the Capriccio-Valse is a delicious example of her affinities. Her Ravel isn’t sensuous in the Thibaud mould and nor is her Brahms cut from Toscha Seidel’s cloth. The Hungarian Dances are more Viennese than Magyar, puckish, rather small-scale but elegant and full of teasing rubato.

The transfers are by Mark Obert-Thorn and are first rate; there’s a tough-sounding side join at the start of the Tchaikovsky but that apart things go smoothly and well. Black marks to Biddulph for spelling the conductor ‘Defaux’ on the booklet cover but we can forgive the faux pas for so much elegant and winning musicianship.

Jonathan Woolf

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