Cello Concerto in B minor, Op.104
Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93
Jian Wang (cello)
West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: 11 November, 2005
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia
“The greatest of all cello concertos” is, despite its having been written in America, very much the child of German Romanticism, with its folk-like melodic material expansively developed and richly orchestrated within a broad format. But it’s the autobiographical content (Dvořák’s apparent artistic response to the sickness and death of his sister Josefina during the composition of the concerto between 1894-95) that provides the link with Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony and that composer’s supposed portrait of Stalin in the second movement – not to mention the purported sense of relief Shostakovich felt at the death of his tormentor which permeates the entire work.
Programme or no, the chief protagonists in this concert, namely soloist Jian Wang and conductor Alexander Lazarev, managed to flesh out the emotional content of the music to an astonishing degree – despite their differing aesthetic bases. Wang’s tone has never possessed the richness of, say, Rostropovich’s, and nor should it: he has instead the ability to draw a resonance from his instrument that is simultaneously intimate and all-encompassing. His elegant phrasing and precise intonation, particularly evident in the Adagio, blossomed wonderfully in the profusion of multiple-stopping with which the concerto is filled, perfectly complimenting Lazarev’s grand gestures (both physical and musical!) and the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra’s superb balance and sense of ensemble. This was a big performance in every sense of the word.
And it was the sense of weight and purpose, too, that stood both orchestra and conductor in good stead in Shostakovich, where the ambivalent mood, stretching between oppression and elation, was brought out to perfection; the piccolo duo was a highlight, as indeed was the playing of the woodwinds. On the final crashing chord, Lazarev spun around, his arms outstretched as though flinging the music into the audience – a nice theatrical touch that in no way detracted from the seriousness of the work; indeed, it added an appropriately surreal flavour to the performance.
Mention should be made of Wang’s two encores. Encouraged by the warm reception, this most urbane and charming musician presented the ‘Prelude’ from Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 and a ravishing Chinese work by Hua Yan-Jun called Reflection of the Moon in Two Springs.