C1714. DESIRE-EMILE INGHELBRECHT Cond. RTF S.O.: 'Italian' Symphony #4 in A (Mendelssohn); Götterdämmerung - Siegfried's Rhine Journey; Funeral March (Wagner), Live Performance, 18 Sept., 1952; w.DEVY ERLIH: Violin Concerto in e (Mendelssohn), Live Performance, 14 March, 1957 (both Theatre des Champs Elysées, Paris). [A deeply soulful rendition of the Mendelssohn Concerto by Erlih] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-841. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Devy Erlih was born in Paris on 5 November 1928. His Romanian-Jewish parents were immigrants from what is now Moldova. His father was a folk musician, playing the cimbalom and the pan pipes. Before he was ten, Erlih was the star attraction in his father’s café orchestra, performing nightly in a brasserie. His father had no formal musical training and at first, neither did Devy. ‘My father just played because in those surroundings that was what people did. I performed with him for years, and I loved it - it was full of fun. My father taught me, and only by ear’.
That, he adds, was an advantage: ‘It was a wonderful beginning, not to start with solfège - how can a child be stimulated by a horrid burden like that? One day, a music-loving philanthropist missed a train and wandered into the brasserie where the Erlih family orchestra was in full flow. ‘This gentleman saw the poster outside billing me as ‘Le petit Devy’ and came in to listen. ‘Le petit Devy’ learnt the Mendelssohn Concerto, gave the concert, then went straight back to the café orchestra. But the seeds of an idea had been planted, and a few months later his father took him to visit one of the Paris Conservatoire’s leading violin professors, Jules Boucherit - among whose pupils were Ginette Neveu, Henri Temianka and Michèle Auclair. ‘He said that he would gladly take me, but that I would have to stop the café music and concentrate on violin studies’, says Erlih. Boucherit, he adds, had the reputation of being a dictator. ‘It was that particular generation. In those days, the father figure was a dictator. You did what he demanded, without questioning. Boucherit was a dictator - which didn’t stop him from saving my life’.
After the German invasion, the Erlih family was in grave danger. In hiding, and hence unable to work, the Erlihs found it impossible to support their young son and sought a better way of providing for him. Through Boucherit they met one Mr Ferretti, an Italian who was a long-time resident in Paris. He took Devy in. Boucherit took Erlih out of the city to his country house, where the boy stayed with the caretaker. ‘The very next Sunday the Gestapo came to Ferretti’s home, looking for ‘the little Jew’ who played the violin. They knew all about me.’ After the war, Erlih resumed his official studies at once, entering Boucherit’s class in the Paris Conservatoire and soon earning the sought-after Premier Prix. This enabled him to give his first recital. ‘The critic Antoine Goléa, who was Romanian and had formerly been a violin student of Enescu, turned up by mistake. Goléa’s review lauded the youngster to the skies; the critic also recommended him to a conductor friend, Henri Tomasi, who gave Erlih the opportunity to play the Brahms Concerto with his orchestra. These events helped to launch his career, and in 1955 he won the Long-Thibaud Competition - the last French violinist to do so. Ironically, Erlih had encountered Jacques Thibaud himself several times. ‘He was like a brother to Boucherit and whenever he came round Boucherit would say, ‘Listen to this little boy’. Each time Thibaud just patted me on the shoulder and said ‘Very good, very good, now continue, mon petit’, and these were his lessons! I was lucky enough to hear him in what proved to be one of his last concerts - he played the Brahms Concerto, rather surprisingly - and I was very struck by the spiritual quality of his playing then’.
Henri Tomasi was among the first composers who wrote for Erlih. ‘Bruno Maderna didn’t write his concerto for me, but I gave the premiere; it’s a fantastic, an astonishing piece. I also gave the world premiere of Milhaud’s Second Concerto. Then Martinu came to hear me in New York and gave me his concerto, asking whether I could play it in France, which I did.’ Erlih gave the Japanese premiere of Dutilleux’s violin concerto ‘L’arbre des songes’ in 1989, standing in for an indisposed soloist at just three days’ notice. André Jolivet loomed especially large in Erlih’s life; he frequently performed the composer’s 1972 Violin Concerto and ‘Suite rhapsodique’. ‘Jolivet was a massive person, rather severe and reserved, but he gave you the impression of an immense solidity of character’, recalls Erlih. ‘I was terribly impressed by the style of his music which I felt very strongly, and the accuracy of writing that he had to express this. The language was not traditional at all; it was very personal, but with a permanent need of expression, and that to me is what says the most’. After the composer’s death, the link went even deeper: Erlih married Jolivet’s daughter, Christine. At a time when France was extremely conservative and did not like the avant-garde, Devy was a pioneer. ‘The greater the complexity of the music, the more your technique has to evolve. Then what remains, no matter what you play, is the question of translating what you think is true’.”
- Jessica Duchen, THE STRAD, Feb., 2012
"The first performance of Debussy's PELLEAS ET MELISANDE in 1902 made a major impact upon Inghelbrecht and he was to be associated with the music of that composer throughout his life. Jacques Rouche engaged Inghelbrecht as conductor at the Theatre des Arts in 1908, where he directed the first performance of Florent Schmitt's LA TRAGEDIE DE SALOME, and in 1911 he was chorusmaster for the stage premiere of Debussy's mystery-play with dance, LE MARTYRE DE SAINT SEBASTIEN; he later conducted with distinction its revival as a concert piece in 1912. In order to give Paris a first-class choir, Inghelbrecht founded the Association Chorale Professionelle in 1912 and in the same year was appointed director of music at the newly constructed Theatre des Champs-Elysées, where he conducted the theatre's opening season productions. These included Berlioz's BENVENUTO CELLINI, Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV, and Dukas' LA PERI.
After World War I, in 1919 Inghelbrecht founded the Concerts Pleyel with the objective of performing the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He toured Europe with the Ballets Suedois between 1920 and 1923, conducting the first performances of LES MARIES DE LA TOUR EIFFEL by Les Six, and Milhaud's L'HOMME ET SON DESIR (both in 1921) and on his return to France became chief conductor at the Opera-Comique, Paris (1924-1925). He then held a succession of posts - second conductor at the Concerts Pasdeloup (1928-1932), chief conductor of the Algerian Opera (1929-1930), and once again chief conductor at the Opéra-Comique (1932-1933) - before embarking upon his major achievement: the formation in 1934 of the top radio orchestra in France, the Orchestre National de Radio France, of which he was chief conductor until the liberation of France at the end of World War II. He continued to conduct this orchestra until the end of his life, including on tour to England in 1953, even during the years (1945-1950) when he was chief conductor at the Paris Opéra.
Inghelbrecht knew Debussy well, and specialised in the performance of his music throughout his career. He recorded works by Debussy both before and after World War II, on 78rpm and long-playing records, keeping alive a style of interpretation which he sedulously maintained to the end of his life. His performances of Debussy's music were direct and precise, and without any hint of 'impressionism'. His own compositions, especially those written when he was young, clearly showed the influence of Debussy. Among the most well-known of his works are LA NURSERY, composed between 1905 and 1932, the ballet EL GRECO of 1920, and the REQUIEM of 1941. He also wrote several books on different aspects of conducting."
- David Patmore, A-Z of Conductors