DGG Originals 463 651-2, 74:40 (Distrib. Universal Special Import) *****:
Occasionally, a hard-to-find CD is worth finding. Always impressed with the work of the late Hungarian conductor Ferenc Fricsay (1914-1963), I am grateful to have been alerted about (and treated to) this fine import by fellow collector Lance G. Hill. I did own the Morini collaborations (1953) on the original American Decca pressing of the LP. The Dvorak Concerto with Roumanian cult-figure violinist Johanna Martzy (1924-1979) is in mono, but the sonic projection is never less than spectacular, her articulation and bowing the soul of cosmic familiarity with the niceties of the score, on a par with the great collaborations by Kulenkampff and Milstein. The second movement is creamy enough to cut into thick Slavonic slices and serve to anyone who loves Dvorak. As per expectation, all of Fricsay’s interior lines – from oboe, flute, and deep strings to the high flutes and horns – are immaculate and make one wish he and say, Fournier, had collaborated on the Dvorak Cello Concerto on records. The last movement combines pungency of attack with a lustrous sheen from both solo and orchestra. Fricsay’s strings, winds, and tympani make Dvorak sound like Beethoven. Martzy’s tone has a high gloss, a deeply sweet resonance which continues to make collectors seek out her best inscriptions and live concerts.
Erica Morini (1904-1995) first impressed me with her driving performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto with Rodzinski for the Westminster label; then I was no less bowled over by their Tchaikovsky Concerto. Between her inscriptions for Westminster, CBS, and those on the elusive Bluebird label, I built up a formidable representation of her thin but plastic line, her suave experience with the masters. In the Bruch Concerto (1959), Morini’s piercing, nasal sound finds a hefty, robust orchestral counterpart in Fricsay’s accompaniment, passionate, throbbing in the opening movement, complemented by Morini’s blistering bariolage effects. The second movement is as intimate as the first is demonic. The ascents on the violin’s E string are remain breathtaking even after almost 50 years. The last movement allows Morini to dig into the strings more deeply, achieving a rasping drive we associate with her more ephemeral colleague Guila Bustabo. Fricsay, volatile as ever, puts considerable force into horn pedals and crescendos, molding every phrase with vehemence. The final statement of the rondo theme threatened my sound system with detonation.
The Glazunov (1959), like the Bruch, is recorded in stereo sound, but the ethos comes an entirely different world, one built on subtle gradations of color and evocative applications of timbre. The melos is operatic, as though Lenski’s aria had been transported to the concerto medium. The big melody with violin, harp, and strings has a pathos close to the heart-wringing Menuhin could elicit at will. Morini’s cadenza displays an uncanny accuracy of pitch and registration variety, but a colossal flute tone. The trumpet call that opens the last movement proves an invitation to all kinds of musical delights, bravura and elegance at once. The secondary theme oozes temperament, old world. The splashes and whirls of color bespeak a by-gone age which this disc has captured in pristine glory. One of the Best of the Year, if you can secure a copy!
— Gary Lemco