S0515. HENRI MERCKEL, w.Bigot Cond. Lamoureux Orch.: Concerto in C (Hubeau); w.Munch Cond Paris Conservatoire Orch.: Sérénade Concertante; La Pantoufle de Vair (both Dalannoy); w.Coppola Cond. Pasdeloup Orch.: Concerto #3 in b (Saint-Saëns). (England) Dutton CDBP 9805, recorded 1935-42. Transfers by Michael J. Dutton. - 765387980528
“Merckel’s immediately recognizable tone is more savory than sweet, with a piercing high register. The Saint-Saens concerto is best, stylishly performed in the best possible taste, thoroughly toothsome and extremely well recorded in June of 1935. The Hubeau and Delannoy works recorded in 1942 and 1941 must be very scarce items. The ‘Danse de Negrillons’ from LA PANTOUFLE is not in such very good taste but has its own sort of appeal. The Hubeau violin concerto, if it sometimes threatens to cloy, has charm nonetheless and is a fine vehicle for M Merckel and the Lamoureux Orchestra to display their tonal abilities. This unassuming collection will bring smiles to lovers of French music.”
- David Radcliffe, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March/April, 2012
“Merckel pursued a career as soloist but maintained positions in French orchestras, eventually becoming longtime concertmaster at the Paris Opéra. Having been trained in France before WW I and having served there for so long, he might be expected to be representative of a French school of violin-playing; and while his sound may be sparer than Jacques Thibaud’s, his manner really does almost ideally suit Saint-Saëns’ Concerto, which he plays with Francescatti’s clarity but also with a modicum of Grumiaux’s atmospheric warmth and even a suggestion—especially in his leisurely way with portamentos—of Thibaud-like opulence. The [latter]presents his reedy, soaring tone in striking profile; although the orchestral part may not come through with the depth and clarity of a more modern recording, a listener might easily obtain the impression from it that Merckel sounds much as he must have sounded live: a quite surprising suggestion in view of the performance’s date of 27 June, 1935. In general, he seems able to extend the strength of his Gagliano’s middle two strings to the top of the upper string. Still, his tone…if he didn’t employ it so seductively, might even seem somewhat abrasive. The warmth lies, then, in the manner rather than in the matter. Except for several very slight lapses during which he very, very briefly seems to have lost control of tone production, he remains technically confident throughout, though hardly a razor-sharp virtuoso or a showman given to effects for their own sake.
If Russian violinists dominated the period between the two world wars, reaching their primes almost exactly at this time, others retained a clear individuality: Flesch’s students and Hubay’s come immediately to mind. But Henry Merckel spoke cogently as well, exuding the atmosphere of his time and place. As a historic testament and material ideally suited to study, his recordings, in surprisingly revealing recorded sound, deserve to be heard.”
- Robert Maxham, FANFARE