S0008. HENRI MERCKEL, w.Coppola Cond. Pasdeloup Orch.: Symphonie espagnole (Lalo), recorded 1932;
Concerto #3 in b (Saint-Saëns), recorded 1935; Phillipe Gaubert Cond. Paris S.O.: Danse macabre (Saint-Saëns). (Japan) Opus Kura 2028. - 4582158680281
"French violin virtuoso Henri Merckel (1897-1969) is celebrated in this Japanese-label transfer of pressings made 1932 1935. Merckel's is a thin but pleasing, nasal tone; his interpretation of the Lalo, which includes the 'intermezzo' movement, is the first complete performance of this familiar suite for violin and orchestra. The recording was lauded in its own time, receiving the Grand Prix di Disques for 1934. The Saint-Saens concerto is equally gripping, with some real fire in the outer movements, the Andantino a piece of the French countryside. This disc should win him new friends and accolades by those connoisseurs who appreciate a real sense of Gallic style. Opus Kura restorations are a bit noisy but still acoustically vivid."
- AAUDIOPHILE AUDITION
“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