ERICA MORINI, violinist
TCHAIKOVSKY:  Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35 (Chicago Symphony Orch/Désiré Defauw, cond) (rec. Dec. 12, 1945).  VIVALDI (arr. Respighi):  Violin Sonata in D.  WIENIAWSKI:  Romance from Violin Concerto No. 2; Capriccio-Valse, Op. 7. RAVEL:  Piece en forme de Habeñara.  GOUNOD-SARASATE: Waltz from Faust (with pianist Max Lanner) (rec. 1941).  BRAHMS:  Six Hungarian Dances (with pianist Artur Balsam) (rec. 1945).


Morini (1904-95) was indubitably stellar at a time when women violin soloists were a virtual oddity - hard as this may be for listeners to grasp in an the era of Anne-Sophie Mutter, Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg, Viktoria Mullova, Kyung Wha-Chung, Midori, and the veritable phalanx of up-and-coming (as well as comely) young Asian teens and twenties. Once upon a time, however, apart from Maud Powell, there was -- well, Erika Morini, an Italo-Austrian contemporary of Heifetz, Milstein, and the mainly Russian-Jewish virtuosi who dominated the international solo scene for more than half of the 20th century. She may not have threatened their celebrity, or attracted audiences in comparable numbers, but on her mettle -- as in this expertly remastered collection of '40s recordings for RCA Victor—she was second to none as an artist.

The principal work is Tchaikovsky's concerto with the usual cuts, recorded in December 1945 with DÈsirÈ Defauw conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that Frederick Stock fashioned between 1905 and 1942. You won't hear the electricity or Èlan of Fritz Reiner's Chicago Symphony in the 1957 stereo remake featuring Heifetz.  Yet Morini's Tchaikovsky was elegantly international on her own terms (rather than Auer-trained Russian), and resoundingly recorded in sympathetic company, most ably led.  It stands the test of time as a choice complementary version for fanciers of the piece.

Her Vivaldi/Respighi Violin Sonata was always a delight in recitals, and the other encore-length pearls here—recorded in 1941, other than the six Brahms/Joachim Hungarian Dances made in 1945, three months before Tchaikovsky—remain silkily elegant. After so many recent violinistes of diverse musical indoctrination and platform comportment—ranging from Midori's anchored stance to Salerno-Sonnenberg's bacchanalian choreography—it's been a pleasure to be reminded of Morini's durable persuasion, masterfully restored by Mark Obert-Thorn.

R.D. (AUG. 2001)