Cello Concerto in C, Op.20
Konzertstück in D, Op.12
Symphonie concertante in B flat minor, Op.8
Alban Gerhardt (cello)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Recorded on 17 and 18 December 2004 in Caird Hall, Dundee
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2005
CD No: HYPERION CDA67544
Duration: 69 minutes
The opening orchestral bars of Ernö (Ernst von) Dohnányi’s Konzertstück (completed in 1904 and the youngest music here) are of light-hearted elegance, the solo cello spinning a long, rhapsodic line that the orchestral strings take up with feeling. Thus begins another Hyperion dalliance with things Romantic. Having explored concertante works for piano and violin – indeed, these avenues remain under scrutiny – the cello, perhaps the most imploring of instruments, is now spot-lit.
Alban Gerhardt, one of the finest cellists of the younger generation, plays here with a range of tone and dynamics and both personalises and illuminates the three works presented. Each lasts just over 20 minutes, the longest being the Dohnányi, a splendid work of melodic allure with many deft touches in the orchestra. One notices Dohnányi’s Brahmsian references as no more than that, for his many personal entrées sustain a heartfelt work that is at its most ruminative and compelling in the central Adagio. Gerhardt is really inside the music and gently communicative – no mean feat under studio conditions – and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra respond with sensitivity and commitment to Carlos Kalmar (Music Director of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra); the last movement, the longest of the three, continues and develops the mood heard at the work’s opening.
How remarkably the beginning of Enescu’s Symphonie concertante grows: from undefined (if absorbing) musing to intense threnody, and from there to a light, dancing passage. Enescu is rarely predictable: the subtle decorations and interplay of this unostentatious yet powerful music will repay repeated listening; the work’s very elusiveness is one of its strengths, although the section that acts as the finale shows a marked increase in demonstrativeness and outreach – not least the closing bars, which present the soloist with a barrage of notes to negotiate and the listener with some ‘Romanian Rhapsody’ footage.
As for Eugen d’Albert’s concerto, its mellowness appeals, but its melodies are less tangible; even so it fits this programme admirably through its rhapsodising, and thus reminds of Schumann’s Cello Concerto in some respects, not least for using the instrument to share confidences. That said, the music strides more than in Schumann’s work and is also less integrated. Good to hear it, though.
This fine collection of pieces, each playing continuously, and all written within a five-year period, really is the preserve of the ‘gramophone’ – these are concert-hall rarities that can now be listened to at any time. Both the Dohnányi and, in particular, the Enescu have the appeal of not being obvious and with the promise of more to discover.
The recording is immediate, the solo cello easily discernible, but there is parity with the orchestra, which is reproduced with warmth and with clarity as far as solo woodwind lines are concerned in both the Dohnányi and Enescu; tuttis in the d’Albert are more spacious and more reverberant. In short a release of three attractive works very sympathetically realised. First class annotation and presentation, too.