Dvorák: Cello Concerto; Dohnányi: Konzertstück
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|1. Concerto For Cello And Orchestra In B Minor, Op. 104: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 104: (Allegro)|
|2. Concerto For Cello And Orchestra In B Minor, Op. 104: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 104: Adagio, ma non troppo|
|3. Concerto For Cello And Orchestra In B Minor, Op. 104: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 104: Finale: Allegro moderato|
|4. Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra in D major, Op. 12: Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra in D major, Op. 12: Allegro non troppo|
|5. Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra in D major, Op. 12: Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra in D major, Op. 12: Adagio|
|6. Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra in D major, Op. 12: Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra in D major, Op. 12: Tempo I|
Dvorak's Cello Concerto is simply the best one ever written. In fact, there is no other area of the concerto repertoire that is so dominated by a single work. Brahms loved it, and every cellist that ever lived to make a record has recorded it--or tried to. It's also so well written that it's actually pretty hard to do badly, though some have managed, of course. Charles Mackerras was a student in Prague of the great Czech conductor Vaclav Talich, and he conducts Czech music as well as anyone alive. Rafael Wallfisch is a superb cellist who realizes, more than most, that his performance must sound like the ultimate cello and orchestra experience. It certainly does. --David Hurwitz
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Dvorak's orchestra is well served by Mackerras, and exceptionally well recorded. Despite his affinities for Janacek, I do not find a matching affinity for Dvorak. Mackerras is highly competent in the technical aspect of the music; but his rhythms tend to be hard, his general approach is brassy and he overloads climaxes. The cellist has, by comparison, a rather soft-grained tone and at times he struggles to make himself heard in the more boisterous passages. Wallfisch excels in the presentations of the melodious episodes rather more than in the strenuous, virtuosic passages. I'm not suggesting that this is a performance that cannot stand up to the competition in the middle of the roster of recordings; but one could scarcely say it reaches for the stars in the way that Rostropovich can do. Nor is it deeply and emotionally committed as e.g. Piatigorsky; nor does it have the gutsy bravura of Tortelier, to name just a few artists whose names figure in the upper echelons of Dvorak readings of more recent times. It is wholly satisfactory, nevertheless; and if (like me) you collect recordings of great music for many perspectives, this will do very well - even if, perhaps, only for the occasional audition that helps put the truly great readings into their own class!
Matters are different with the Dohnanyi concerto. This has not been well served by the recording industry. For years, Starker's EMI recording held the field, even though it had cuts that made a mess of the work (and if I remember rightly, the sleeve notes did not inform you that it was truncated). Starker re-recorded the work a few years ago in Seattle: a very good, though hardly brilliant issue. This is where Wallfisch and Mackerras really score. They rise to the challenge of putting at last an outstanding recording on the map; and the brilliant sound also helps. Maybe the work is not of the highest calibre; but it is tuneful, brilliant and dramatic in its own right - somewhat reminiscent of d'Albert's concerto, which is also rarely performed for no good reason at all.
Much will depend on the coupling, of course. But I suggest to you that this album is almost worth buying for the Dohnanyi alone. That's how I see it: and I take the Dvorak as the "fill-up", rather than the other way around. But this is a decision only you can make for yourself!
There's an excellent and substantial filler too -- the Dohnanyi Konzertstuck, which I wasn't familiar with and am very glad to have in such a well-played and good-sounding performance. There are other Dvorak Cello Concerto recordings that I like from the pre-digital era -- Rostropovich with Karajan is justly famous, and Lynn Harrell has a lovely account with Levine. I'm particularly fond of Heinrich Schiff's account, with Colin Davis, but the sound on Wallfisch/Mackerras is even better, and the performance certainly isn't inferior. Great music, great performances!
This disc, very well recorded in 1988, has now been remastered using 24 bit technology and issued at a lower price. The recording has been a valued part of my collection since 1989 and offers one of the freshest and most rewarding versions of the Dvorak concerto.
The sound that Chandos has provided has a marked freshness that is totally appropriate. The balance between the soloist and the orchestra seems ideal and allows the listener to follow both elements of the music without artificial highlighting. Mackerras brings an additional authority to the conducting with his known interest in Czech music.
The performance itself offers both a lively and a sensitive performance with plenty of dialogue between soloist and orchestra. The style is more openly natural in expression and does not offer the sort of subtlety that can be experienced in a Rostropovich performance for example. This has more the sense of freshness that one can also hear in the disc by Harrell and Ashkenazy, another fine offering.
The Dohnanyi is an interesting additional item of some substance. Dohnanyi was a popular composer during his lifetime and was a skilled orchestrator of his music. Those skills are apparent here but this piece is nowhere near as memorable as the very successful Variations on a Nursery Theme for which he is now chiefly remembered. It is clearly not in the same class of inspiration as the Dvorak, one of the best concertos for the cello ever written - some would say THE best!
This is a very fine disc indeed even without considering the Dohnanyi. I would suggest that it deserves to be given the most serious consideration by potential purchasers either as an alternative version for multiple collectors or as a single version of the Dvorak.
Sir Charles Mackerras is best recognized for his work on pieces by Handel and Mozart, but his direction of the wonderful London Symphony Orchestra on these offerings is flawless.
This CD, issued in 1988, is not easily found, but if you enjoy the cello and wish to be treated to the work of Wallisch, Mackerras and the London Symphony Orchestra, it will be well worht the time hunting for it You won't be disappointed.