Ernst - Complete music for violin and piano, Volume 1
Sherban Lupu (vn) Ian Hobson (pf)
Toccata Classics TOCC0118 Buy now
(76’ • DDD)
Fantaisie brillante sur Le prophète, Op 24. Two Nocturnes, Op 8. Carnaval de Venise, Op 18. Two Morceaux de salon, Op 13. Thème allemand varié, Op 9. Rondo allemand sur des thèmes d’Oberon, Op 23. Rondo Papageno, Op 20
“The greatest violinist I ever heard.” That was the verdict of Joseph Joachim. Dismayingly overlooked, like so many other once-celebrated composer-virtuosos of the 19th century, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1812‑65) is at last beginning to receive a measure of recognition, on disc at least. In the past, Renardy, Repin, Rosand, Ricci and many other distinguished violinists whose names don’t begin with “R” (Vengerov, Kremer, Gringolts and, most recently, Ning Feng) have revived his works. And now the ever-enterprising Toccata Classics is recording Ernst’s complete works on six CDs. Perhaps this will, finally, put him where he deserves to be – at the top of the pile along with Paganini (whose heir he was), Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps.
Sherban Lupu, currently editing a new edition of Ernst’s works for Toccata, first championed Ernst on disc back in 1990 (“Violon diabolique”, Continuum, 7/90) and is as much at home with the fiendish finger-breaker as he is with the sentimental-lyrical Ernst, not to mention the comedian. Witness the 25 “variations burlesques” on the Carnival of Venice (a first recording), “a piece of sublime whimsy” which Ernst played “like a juggler whose counters are diamonds” (Berlioz). There is always room for a serious composer/musician with a sense of humour.
Lupu, deftly and flamboyantly accompanied by Ian Hobson, astonishes and bewitches in equal measure. Try the Thème allemand varié or the Rondo allemand on Weber’s Oberon (two further world premieres) and you’ll wonder why Ernst is so little played. Perhaps it’s the difficulty. On that score, the concluding Rondo Papageno sorts out the men from the boys. My one complaint is that Hobson is placed too distantly from the closely miked Lupu: the piano, which has an important and often busy role to play here, needs to be heard as an equally matched partner acoustically. But no matter. This is a hugely engaging and entertaining disc produced to Toccata’s exemplary high standard, and the 14-page booklet by Ernst’s biographer Mark Rowe is outstanding.