Ernst: Concerto Pathétique, Concertino / Grubert, Et Al

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The rubric “Violin Virtuoso Composers” lies in the inlay tray – though nowhere else that I can find – and that’s an apt way to...
The rubric “Violin Virtuoso Composers” lies in the inlay tray – though nowhere else that I can find – and that’s an apt way to inaugurate a concertante selection of the works of the Moravian powerhouse Heinrich Ernst. If you hear him at all these days it’s for his daemonically difficult, Paganini-defying Last Rose of Summer, a piece occasionally dusted down by the more athletic gymnasts among the violin fraternity. Even here, however, the numbers who venture into the waters are few and the vast majority of players will play pieces such as the Rose, for violin and piano, rather than the large scale works, all of which have long since dropped from the active repertoire. Ingolf Turban and Giovanni Bria, for instance, give us just such a selection on Claves.

All of this makes these large scale works intriguing listening. Of the five I was unfamiliar with the Op.23 Concerto. The Fantasie Brillante is also known – maybe better known – in a piano reduction. Kovakos and Nagy have recorded it in this form for Delos, and the Huang-Vainstein duo have done so similarly for Naxos, the company that now gives us the full-scale version here. Collectors will know that Arnold Rosé recorded it before the First War, David Oistrakh just after the Second – both cut - and Ruggiero Ricci later still.

The membrane of this work is a vogueish piece of operatic appropriation. It’s lightly scored, the better to give the soloist vaunting opportunities for display. And certainly we can infer just what kind of player the Brno-born giant must have been, exploiting his penchant for thirds and razor sharp harmonics with vertiginous ease. Grubert rises to the challenges with considerable dash, executing the Paganinian whistling harmonics in particular with brio. But Ernst always prided himself on his lyrical generosity and it’s here that he makes a greater mark, Grubert clearly enjoying the seductive simplicity invoked.

The Concerto in F sharp minor was published a decade later and is a stronger work in terms of structure and command. Grubert has competition of sorts from Aaron Rosand in his Vox double CD set where he joined forces with the Luxembourg Radio Orchestra and Louis de Froment. I say of sorts because some scissor work went on in the Vox sessions back in the early 1970s. The orchestral introduction was mercilessly hacked and Rosand pitches in almost immediately in true rhapsodic style. We lose thereby about three minutes of music. I enjoyed Grubert’s playing, not least those dramatic moments where he brings luscious finger position changes and tonal variety to the table. Still, I do have a greater hankering for Rosand, whose vibrancy and colouristic generosity offer even greater rewards, notwithstanding the cuts and the ropier recording quality. Grubert sounds more thoughtful an exponent then Rosand and not so wholehearted and valiant a romanticist.

The other big work is the Concertino, where Ernst has delved into Paganini’s arsenal and emerged with the opening movement of the First Concerto. That’s no bad thing necessarily – Ernst owed a huge debt to Paganini and a lesser one to Berlioz – but of more lasting worth is, once more, the trait of bel canto finesse of which Ernst was a minor master. The Elégie is a touching lament largely eschewing virtuosity in favour of a refined pathos. And the Rondo Papageno is a salty number feasting on saltando bowing, suavely meretricious in the main but a dazzler for those taken by bowing intricacies – such as, no doubt, Ernst’s fellow professionals.

In addition to the above players who have taken on Ernst’s demands – there are others of course – we can include Mordkovich and Kirby in their Chandos Elégie and Lupu and Pettinger in a Continuum Rondo Papageno. Both of course are in reductions. Actually just to demonstrate a small vogue for the (cut) Elégie it had a number of outings on 78 – Flesch, Rudényi and Louis Zimmermann.

But Grubert and co. bring us up to date with well-recorded and smartly played performances. The best of Ernst, as he himself recognised, lay more in his lyric moments but these and the virtuosic demands are adroitly met by Grubert.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Release Date: December 12, 2006

  • UPC: 747313256525

  • Catalog Number: 8557565

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: ""

  • Composer: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst

  • Conductor: Dmitry Yablonsky

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Russian Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Ilya Grubert