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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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William WALTON (1902 - 1983)
Cello Concerto (1956) [29.19]
Recorded 28 January 1957
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 - 1904)

Concerto in b for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 104 (1895) [42.01]
Recorded 22 February 1960
Gregor Piatigorsky, cello
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch
Recorded in Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, USA ADD
Recorded in 3.0 stereo and remastered in the DSD system by Soundmirror, Inc.
Notes in English
Hybrid SACD playable on all CD players

RCA BMG 82876 66375-2 [71.22]


Comparison Recordings

Walton: Piatigorsky, Sargent, BBCSO. EMI DVD DVA 4928409
Dvorak: Pierre Fournier, Hermann Scherchen, RTSISO. Ermitage ERM 170-2 [ADD]
Dvorak: Lynn Harrell, James Levine, LSO. [ADD] RCA/BMG 09026 68086-2

This recording of the Walton Concerto by its dedicatee was made three days following the premiere of the work by these same forces. The DVD was recorded in London sixteen days later. The two recordings together, one for sound and one for picture, give the complete experience. Piatigorsky plays the very difficult, very interesting work beautifully and with great conviction.

By the time Piatigorsky made this recording of the Dvořák Concerto he was 57 years old and had 19 years of life remaining. The legendary series of chamber music recordings with Heifetz, Primrose and Rubinstein was in process and continued for a few years more, to culminate in a recording of the Brahms Cello Sonatas with Rubinstein in 1966. In this Dvořák recording Piatigorsky plays with intelligence, imagination, commitment, and great sensitivity; when he can find a note and let it resonate, he sounds very good. But at times his tone drifts off pitch and into the nasal, some rapid passages are scratchy, he is not always on the beat or on pitch. The orchestral accompaniment is magnificently, boldly, richly played and recorded, but the soloist only collaborates convincingly during slower passages. There are moments of exquisite beauty, you relax and float on sensual waves of sound, then suddenly you grit your teeth. With a work recorded as often as this one is we can find a more satisfactory overall version ...

Such as the Scherchen/Fournier which is a gorgeous performance in every way in remarkably good 1962 broadcast stereo sound from Svizzera-Italiana radio. Fournier’s tone is full, sweet, warm and secure from the first note to the last and Scherchen’s accompaniment is as exciting an achievement as is Munch’s. The Levine/Harrell, also excellent, is a modern four channel studio recording, which may appear on a surround sound disk some day.

Both of these performances are somewhat more extroverted in mood than Piatigorsky’s. He sounds uncomfortable with the very size of the work, as though he would be more comfortable playing to a piano accompaniment. But I can easily imagine that on other occasions Piatigorsky turned in performances that were overwhelming, stunning in every way. Pity we can’t be there.

Paul Shoemaker

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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