> Dvorak - Elgar [TB]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Antonín DVORAK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor, Opus 104
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

Cello Concerto in E minor, Opus 85
Robert Cohen (cello)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Zdenek Macal (Dvorak), Norman Del Mar (Elgar)
Rec 23-24 April 1981, Watford Town Hall (Dvorak), 10-11 Jan 1980, Walthamstow Assembly Hall (Elgar)
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE CFP CD 5 74879 2 [70.29] Superbudget


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Robert Cohen made a big impression when his career was launched during the 1970s, and these two recordings from 1980-81 came at a time when a major international career was developing for him. If that never quite happened (we don't quite bracket him with Rostropovich); he is still a fine cellist to this day, capable of bringing insights into all the major works of the instrument's repertory.

That is certainly the case here, in this pair of recordings, of perhaps the two greatest concertos for the cello. The London Philharmonic Orchestra plays well in each work, with a conductor for each who was a specialist in his field. The recordings were made in venues whose acoustics suit orchestral music supremely well, and they still sound splendid twenty years later.

Of the two performances, the Elgar comes across more satisfactorily than the Dvorák. Although the opening cadenza can sound bigger-boned than Cohen provides, the tone is pleasing, and so too is the balance against and with the orchestra as the music proceeds. There is a most sensitive attention to detail, and the relationship between soloist and conductor is well thought out. This is an interpretation which is of the highest order.

The Dvorák performance is good too, but does not to my mind possess the sweeping intensity this great work requires of an interpretation. The playing is good, from everyone involved, and the recording sounds well. But in the first movement especially the ebb and flow is not powerful enough in its quasi-symphonic dimensions. This has longer term implications, with the result that the emotional drive of the music is not as overwhelming as it can be when the later stages are reached, and the poignant music relating to the death of the composer's first love, Josefina Cermakova, is heard just before the final drive.

This remains a performance to reckon with, all the same, and at bargain price it is nothing if not competitive.

Terry Barfoot

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