is absolutely no doubt that Dvořák's B Minor Cello Concerto
is the greatest cello concerto of them all, although I have a
soft spot for his Cello Concerto in A. The B minor puts all other
cello concertos in the shade. It is so well written, magnificently
orchestrated, replete with every musical emotion without being
corny, and possessing both a splendour devoid of pomposity and
some of the most moving music you will ever hear. The Dvořák
has a rich variety of rhythmic contrast, colour and direction.
cello is often portrayed as a dreamy and overtly romantic instrument.
And it is true that some composers could not write for it. Tchaikovsky's
Rococo Variations sometimes used the instrument as if it were
the sweating horse about to win the 3.30 at Newmarket and this
makes the cello ugly with a sound like an angry bee trapped in
a match box.
Dvořák succeeds in doing is realising the true characteristics
of the cello. He judges everything so well.
said it was flawlessly written. Pierre Fournier could find nothing
wrong with it. Tortelier referred to it as sublime and unequalled
in the cellist's repertoire. Maurice Gendron lived every bar when
he played it and how well he played it!
I first heard it I was completely smitten. It is one of the handful
of works that I regard as truly great. It speaks to me and it
always delights. I have so many recordings of it including radio
broadcasts and such a broadcast includes one by Janos Starker
and that is by far the best. Rostropovich with Sargent is a very
DuPré's performances of this concerto were self-indulgent
and nauseous as if she were wringing out every drop from an almost
dry flannel. The work must not be sentimentalised or dragged.
The drama and emotion is already there in the music. It does not
need any further input.
are great disadvantages in both knowing a work so well and loving
it so much in that you find every little indiscretion or minor
imperfection and foolishly expect perfection.
is a very good performance from soloist and orchestra but the
performance is somewhat individualistic and that is certainly
not a bad thing if it makes sense. I feel the soloist lingers
over phrases particularly in the first movement and his performance
lacks some authority. Sometimes the music sounds so mercurially
smooth that it seems unnatural. Therefore it loses its passion
and spontaneity. Some of the forte orchestral entries are too
sudden and explosive as if someone has accidentally and incorrectly
turned up the volume and rushed to turn it down again. It gives
the music a certain vulgarity. I miss the timpanist making something
of the tragic heartbeats particularly just before the end of the
finale. He seems to be in another room.
a Promenade Concert last week Stephen Hough gave a splendid account
of Brahms' superb Piano Concerto no. 1 with an orchestra from
Budapest under Ivan Fischer. Apart from some truly splendid piano
playing what enhanced the performance was the vigour and total
involvement of the orchestral playing - sometimes very rugged
and vital. The orchestra in this performance is not like that.
It is competent but not quite involved!
Seventh Symphony is given a sometimes-good performance. I have
admired the conducting of Myung-Whun Chung for many years. His
performance of Nielsen's Second Symphony is a must-have. In this
symphony he does many things well, capturing some, but not all,
of the pastoral and tragic moments to perfection however somehow
it does not hang together. I listened to Bryden Thomson and then
Istvan Kertesz and could hear what was missing in Chung's performance
but to define the missing feature is almost impossible. I can
only advance the notion that Chung does not capture the earthiness
of the music. I do not like his loitering speed in the slow movement
which makes the music sound like Mahler - the inconsequential
Mahler of his Fourth Symphony. I listened to Vaclav Neumann in
this movement and revelled in the rustic sounds and the convincing
performance. As it is a Czech symphony should it sound Czech?
But then how does Czech music sound?
loses his way in the slow movement, the poco adagio, in what results
in a tedious performance. The scherzo is one of those glorious
warm summer day rustic pieces which Dvořák excelled at. Chung
lacks drive and vitality. Listen to Kertesz who is certainly not
pedestrian. Ormandy with the Philadelphia gets its right. Chung
lingers over the trio section. In fact he never gets into top
gear. On the other hand he brings out orchestral detail and some
exquisite playing but if the true character is to be sacrificed
for beauty, I suggest something is wrong. His entry into the repeat
of the scherzo is staggering but his subsequent lingering tempi
try the patience. This is not the Dvořák I know and love,
but, alas, rather a stranger. And so to the finale, one of the
most exciting in romantic symphonic literature. The introduction
lacks the sinister darkness and shrill howling woodwind. The timpani
entry into the main allegro is startling but the tempi is too
cautious and, at times, it plods. Chung realises his mistake and
speeds up but the music sounds too clinical. The music succumbs
to a slower pace and the transition is not well handled. It is
a patchwork-quilt performance. And yet for all these criticisms
the playing is exemplary but it is more from a beautifully polished
and oiled machine than from the heart.
performance is stop and start and lacks cohesion. But he has some
tremendous moments! The rustic passages do not skip innocently
but the horns tower in glorious majesty! And the final storm is
breathtaking with wonderful orchestral screams and a power that
is unequalled! Great stuff! But do we buy a recording just for
the supremacy of the last 45 seconds?