these works followed hard on the heels of the ending of the
Second World War. The Cello Concerto was begun at the start
of 1947 and finished quickly; there had been a run-through of
the first two completed movements with the distinguished Paul
Grümmer - Schoeck himself at the piano - but the premiere was
given by Pierre Fournier in 1948 in Zurich.
Those who know and admire the somewhat earlier Violin Concerto,
written for Stefi Geyer and whose premiere recording is available
on Jecklin (though a better transfer was on Lys)
will perhaps find the Cello Concerto less immediately impressive.
The earlier string concerto contains themes of palpable warmth
and great lyrical beauty. But the charm of the Cello Concerto
increases with each hearing and there are things in it of real
lyrically there’s also a stalking rhythmic impulse that recurs
throughout the long-ish quarter of an hour Allegro moderato.
There may be hints of an Elgarian kind of syntax but it’s the
shared chamber intimacies that most reveal themselves – of texture
and of mood, of refinement but also of a quiet melancholy. The
double stops for the soloist that start the slow movement soon
give way to a rich cantilena, rather beautiful, moving, compact
and powerfully argued. The multi-faceted nature of the concerto
is further cemented by a deliberately quasi-archaic Gigue of
a scherzo. To an ostinato orchestral accompaniment the music
lightens and cleanses in this brisk immersion into this not-quite
foray into neo-classicism. Adopting the four-movement concerto
model the finale opens with a lento section that gradually screws
itself up and drives forward. In terms of tempo and dynamics
things grow in size and the lyrical uplift is really unmistakeable
with the soloist acrobatically giving vent to now-secure confidence.
The performances are convincing; the strings of South West German
Chamber Orchestra, Pforzheim can be rather thin and lack weight
and Berger has rather a nasal tone but otherwise there’s no
undue lingering and perception is strong, not least in the lyrical
heart of this more than attractive work – one well worth taking
the trouble to get to know. Once known, never forgotten.
with it is the Suite in A flat major, written a couple of years
earlier. Here we really do get Schoeck’s own brand of frank
neo-classicism. Rich, melodic but once more tinged with melancholia
this is a short five movement work. The polyphony can sometimes
be quite dense but highpoints are the slow Pastorale, with its
reflective choirs and its trace elements of the Tallis Fantasia,
and the whiff of Prokofiev that animates the March third movement
(actually more than a whiff) – though note the delightful counterpoint
for second violins. The slow movement is wistfully grave but
not too much so and the Presto finale encloses a fine fugato
section – lively, bright and just right to end this undemanding
but well-constructed piece.
quality is good if not spectacular and the notes cover the main
compositional areas with precision. Of the two it’s the Cello
Concerto that’s the more compelling – it has something about
it that just won’t let go.