Beautiful Performances of Rarely Heard Romantic Cello Concer
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 07/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is Volume Two of a series of recordings of mostly rare Romantic cello concerti played by cellist Alban Gerhardt accompanied by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu. Of course the Schumann Cello Concerto, included on this disc, is hardly rare but it doesn't figure among the commonest cello concerti one hears in concert either. From the time of its premiere in 1860 -- ten years after it was written -- it has also taken plenty of hits from critics sniping at its thick orchestration and formal oddities. But there are marvelous recordings by the likes of Rostropovich and du Pré. Those recordings tend to present the concerto as Important Music and thus are played with emphasis and great emotion. This performance by Gerhardt tends to be a bit lighter and less self-important. That is an acceptable approach and indeed I think the concerto may gain by it.
The three other concerti, though, are almost completely forgotten, unjustly so. They may not require frequent outings but they do deserve to be heard as all three of them contain memorable, enjoyable music. The concerto by Robert Volkmann (1815-1883), written shortly after Schumann's but actually premiered before it, is in four linked movements played without pause. It is possibly the most virtuosic of the three non-Schumann works here. Albert Dietrich (1839-1916) wrote his concerto in the 1870s. It is the most dramatic of the three non-Schumann concerti but doesn't actually dig too deeply. Friedrich Gernsheim's concerto was written in 1906 but could easily have been written fifty years earlier. It is tuneful and neatly written for the solo instrument. It is brief, with three movements lasting only thirteen minutes. Although in G minor it does not display much of the drama or anxiety often heard in late romantic music.
One cannot praise highly enough Alban Gerhardt's playing. He is a cellist with big tone, suave phrasing and deep musical insight. The orchestral accompaniment is excellent and in good sound. He certainly makes the best possible case for these concerti, and since there are no easily available recordings of those by Gernsheim, Volkmann and Friedrich and the performance of the Schumann is a bit unusual and quite lovely, this CD is recommended for cello fanciers and lovers of romantic concerti.