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Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2007

Ernst’s violin music is virtuosically written, as might be expected from a famous violinist. It does not have the individual profile the music by Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps (similar 19th-century virtuosos) has, but it is far from unpleasant listening, especially when as well played as it is by Ilya Grubert, with Dmitry Yablonsky leading the Russian Philharmonic. Major works are the Concerto in F-sharp minor, the even longer Concertino in D.



Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2007

Ernst’s violin music is virtuosically written, as might be expected from a famous violinist. It does not have the individual profile the music by Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps (similar 19th-century virtuosos) has, but it is far from unpleasant listening, especially when as well played as it is by Ilya Grubert, with Dmitry Yablonsky leading the Russian Philharmonic. Major works are the Concerto in F-sharp minor, the even longer Concertino in D.



Michael Cookson
MusicWeb International, February 2007

Naxos as part of their continuing series the Violin Virtuoso Composers have released a new recording devoted to the virtually forgotten Moravian-born composer Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst. The issue comprises five works for violin and orchestra, all cast in a single movement, including two quasi violin concertos: the Concertino, Op. 12 and the Concerto Pathétique, Op. 23.

Ernst’s compositions were predominantly intended for his own use like many of those of his fellow virtuoso composers, such as Joseph Joachim, Giovanni Viotti, Ferdinand David, Henri Vieuxtemps, Camillo Sivori, Henryk Wieniawski and Niccolò Paganini. In line with the custom of the day it is likely that Ernst would not allow the tyranny of the written page and would feel free to improvise and adapt his own scores and those of others.

Performing as a virtuoso for the vast majority of his life, predominantly around Europe and also Russia, Ernst is now largely forgotten as a composer. In his day he was held in great esteem, rather like the stars of popular music today, and was acclaimed by no less than Joseph Joachim who stated that, "Ernst was the greatest violinist I have heard; he towered above all others." He was praised by luminaries such as Berlioz and Mendelssohn, appearing on the concert platform several times with the latter and also with Paganini.

The first score here is the Fantaisie Brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d'Otello de Rossini is known as the Othello Fantasy. It uses themes from Rossini’s three act opera Otello (1816). The Concerto Pathétique is a substantial work and carries a dedication to fellow violinist Ferdinand David. Described as a Chant for Violin the Elégie sur la mort d'un objet chéri appeared after its publication in a version with an Introduction composed by eminent violinist Louis Spohr and the Concertino in D major could be regarded as a single movement violin concerto. The final score is the light-hearted Rondo Papageno which not surprisingly is influenced by Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.

On this recording the Latvian-born soloist Ilya Grubert plays a 1740 Guarneri violin that evidently was once owned by virtuoso Henryk Wieniawski. He proves to be very much equal to the considerable demands that Ernst places on members of the violin playing fraternity. In the Othello Fantasy I especially enjoyed Grubert’s warm and tender playing from 8:03 in the ‘Willow Song’ section. From the introduction of the violin at 3:27 Grubert in the Concerto Pathétique impresses with a confident swagger throughout the adventurous writing. The short Elégie that could have been the slow movement to a violin concerto and here is performed in a manner that is gloriously brooding and winsome. The Concertino provides Grubert with plenty of opportunity for technical display as well as dramatic expression. I loved his precisely assured and exciting playing in the virtuoso passage at 3:34-4:09 and his outpouring of warmly romantic lyricism at 4:26-5:33 is impressively poised. In the Rondo Papageno Grubert adroitly blends virtuosity with lyricism and at 7:54-8:49 plays strikingly with lightning-fast pyrotechnics in a dazzling dash to the finishing line. The orchestra provide secure and sympathetic accompaniment throughout and are particularly impressive in the Concertino with the waltz-like section at 17:56-20:17.

The sound quality from the Kultura Studio in Moscow is clear and well-balanced and the disc enjoys the advantage of interesting and informative notes from Keith Anderson. Grubert’s palette of sound is impressive and his virtuosity remarkable. These scores deserve a wider audience, especially in performances as excellent as these.



Giv Cornfield, Ph. D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2007

The great Joseph Joachim, friend of Johannes Brahms and dedicatee of his violin concerto, had said of Ernst that he was 'the greatest living violinist' - although he is almost forgotten now. Ernst was a typical 19th century virtuoso in the grand manner, who composed fantasies based on opera arias and other popular tunes, primarily for his own performance, much like Paganini, Servais et sim. The music is formulaic and dazzling! Soloist Grubert makes the most of this material, and is given enthusiastic and good- humoured support by Yablonsky and the Russians.



Giv Cornfield, Ph. D.
January 2007

The great Joseph Joachim, friend of Johannes Brahms and dedicatee of his violin concerto, had said of Ernst that he was 'the greatest living violinist' - although he is almost forgotten now. Ernst was a typical 19th century virtuoso in the grand manner, who composed fantasies based on opera arias and other popular tunes, primarily for his own performance, much like Paganini, Servais et sim. The music is formulaic and dazzling! Soloist Grubert makes the most of this material, and is given enthusiastic and good- humoured support by Yablonsky and the Russians.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, January 2007

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 Elégieand 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.






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3:41:55 AM, 27 December 2014
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