The Cello Concerto is a late work dedicated to Pierre Fournier who premiered
it on 10 February 1948 at the Zurich Tonhalle with Volkmar Andreae conducting.
It is unusual in that the orchestra is for strings alone. In the violin concerto
of more than 30 years previously he used a full orchestra. The cello was
important to Schoeck. Some months before his death he heard a performance
of the concerto and this inspired him to begin work on a cello sonata which
lay incomplete when he died.
Rather as in the violin concerto the cello is in almost constant song. The
musical ideas have a much sharper etched character than the earlier work.
Schoecks string writing is very much his own style though, through
the half-lights, you sometime catch a hint of Elgar as in the last movement
of the 1945 suite for strings. The work would perhaps have benefited from
the variety which comes from a full orchestra - after all a string instrument
playing against the background of strings would be a challenge for most
composers. For the most part Schoeck meets that challenge in this 4-movement
work. The 17 minute first movement is overlong but not by a large margin.
It ends with a satisfying crunch. The second movement Andante tranquillo
is not far removed from the midsummer nights idyll of
Sommernacht. The third movement is a brief Bach-like presto.
The last movement Lento uses a gently rocking and cradling theme before
the intense though quiet string writing again leads us back towards summer
nights. In fact this atmosphere reminds me a little of the Scandinavian romantics
attraction to the midnight sun. This predominantly elegiac nostalgic work
runs to 40 concentrated minutes. The violin concerto is about 6 minutes shorter.
I have a great affection for the other work on this disc. Sommernacht
is for strings alone. Summer Night was inspired by a poem of the same
name by Gottfried Keller. All four stanzas of the poem are printed in the
CD leaflet. The music does not attempt to follow the plot of the poem but
to evoke its mood and atmosphere. The mood is warm, carefree, nocturnal and
joyous. The young men of the village work through the night in addition to
their other harvest duties to harvest the corn of a widow who has no menfolk
to bring in the crop. The work is done in secret. The sickles swish, the
harvesters speak in whispers, a gentle breeze cools the men, the sheaves
are bundled and stacked and as dawn arrives the men leave for their ordinary
days work. The scene is moonlit, silvery and the warmth of the previous
day can still be felt. It is a magical piece which I first encountered on
a Genesis LP (GS1010) on which the principal work was the Raff Piano Concerto.
That fine performance, which introduced me to Schoeck, was conducted by Paul
Kletzki with a Geneva studio orchestra. The present performance, pressing
ahead marginally more than the Kletzki, is excellent with the music floating
and drifting in a relaxed, dream-like enchantment. If you enjoy the Tippett
Concerto for Double String orchestra, the Elgar Serenade and
the Introduction and Allegro you will like this piece. In fact, keen
Elgarians will probably find themselves very sympathetic to the cello concerto
as well. Try the wonderful dream dance between orchestra and solo violin
at 7:30. If you do not like this you are unlikely to warm to the instrumental
Schoeck. For me Sommernacht is one of the treasures of the string
This is short playing time but the recordings are of good sound quality though
dating back to 1985 in the case of the concerto. Recommendable and recommended
for the adventurous listener and also for the repertoire hunter looking for
enterprising and rewarding ideas for programming string orchestra concerts.