Three Violinists play BACH = Violin Concertos Nos. 1 in A Minor & 2 in E Major; Double Concerto in D Minor; Concerto for Violin and Oboe – Devy Erlih, violin/Henri Merckel, violin/Reinhold Barchet, violin/ Pro Arte Ch. Orch./Kurt Redel – Opus Kura

by | Jun 29, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Three Violinists play BACH = Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, BWV 1041; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042; Double Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1043; Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C Minor, BWV 1060 – Devy Erlih, violin (A Minor and D Minor)/Henri Merckel, violin (E Major and D Minor)/Reinhold Barchet, violin/Kurt Kalmus, oboe/The Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra/Kurt Redel

Opus Kura OPK 7043, 67:49 [Distrib. by Albany] ****:

Taken from a Ducretet Thomson LP, these transfers, c. mid-1950s, brng back memories of Kurt Redel leading various Baroque ensembles for the Vox label, just as the so-called “Vivaldi Revival” was in full swing. An heir to Adolf Busch, Redel worked in Stuttgart with the likes of Karl Munchinger. True to the spirit of the “authentic” style (whatever that is) Redel uses the harpsichord for his continuo, and he plays ornaments on the upper note, as required. Here, he leads a group of select French musicians, some more famous than others. Devy Erlih (b. 1928) won the Premier Grand Prix at the Long-Thibaud International Competition, making his the heir-apparent to Jacques Thibaud.  A strong technique and a nasal incisive tone are his hallmarks, though he was to be eclipsed by the more spectacular Chirstian Ferras for flamboyant bravura. Henri Merckel (1897-1967), another powerful French virtuoso noted for his Saint-Saens, brandishes a long, flexible line, but it cuts very thin, as his vibrato is quite fast, his tone a step away from Szigeti’s razor-wire, cut-gut sound.  Merckel makes the Allegro assai of the E Major Concerto dance and strut with a resolute panache, the intonation sure, the catty figures in the ensemble on point.

I found only old-world charm in the D Minor Double Concerto, a sweet plastic line evolving from the two soli, Erlih and Merckel. The slow movement becomes a kind of swan-song for a whole sensibility of negotiating Bach. The Concerto for Oboe and Violin has my recalling Stern and Tabuteau in Philadelphia or Stern and Gomberg in New York. Kurt Kalmus packs an elegant elastic oboe tone, somewhere between Holliger and Mitch Miller or Tabuteau himself. He and Reinhold Barchet–who did record for Vox often–seem joined at the musical hip, their respective sonorities blending in a noble dance and ariosi for the outer movements. For sheer mysticism in Bach, the beguiling Adagio steals the berries, a love-song of two amorously intertwined sea-weeds. Quietly-restored surfaces guarantee unruffled, devotional Bach. Recommended to the adventurous who look backward for sweeter sounds.

— Gary Lemco

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