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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.