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Jean-Balthasar TRICKLIR (1750-1813)
Cello Concertos: no.3 in C [17:28], no.4 in D [17:31], no.5 in A [17:13], no.6 in G [20:13]
Alexander Rudin (cello), Musica Viva Chamber Orchestra
Recorded at the Mosfilm Tonstudious in September-October 2003

As my grandmother once sagely remarked, "there’s quite a lot of composers when you think about it, isn’t there"; and she herself could have named at least a dozen …

The trouble is, a good many people with far more pretensions to culture than my grandmother ever had, think the same way, and will go to a concert including a cello concerto from the classical period only if it’s by Haydn. Even Boccherini is a bit of an adventure for them, especially if it really is Boccherini and not Grützmacher. Their number would seem to include Bill Gates and his entourage, by the way, since the language corrector proposes to transform Boccherini into either Butchering or Bickering.

Back in Haydn’s own day people thought differently, and people went to concerts to hear something new. From time to time a particularly successful piece might be repeated, but more often success would lead to an invitation to write something else. Composition was not seen as the gradual creation of a limited stock of masterpieces but as a ready supply of novelties. People no more went to concerts to hear the same things than present-day twelve-composer "cultured" persons expect to buy a newspaper and find it repeats the same articles as the day before (not that they’re all that different really ...).

Obviously, if you are only going to allow twelve composers into your Pantheon, there’s no way Jean-Balthasar Tricklir is going to find a place there, but he was a welcome enough figure in his own day. By all accounts one of the finest cellists of his time, it seemed natural enough that he should tour Europe with cello sonatas and concertos of his own in his portfolio, something which the 20th Century did not demand of Rostropovich or even Casals, who actually did compose a bit - Tortelier’s occasional compositions were tolerated as a harmless eccentricity. And, if you’re willing to enlarge your 12 composers to 120 or even 1,200, if you’re prepared to listen and enjoy and then put the music on one side till you’ve forgotten it enough to enjoy it again, then Tricklir has a lot going for him.

He certainly sounds to have been a merry old soul, and it is perhaps in the finales that he is at his best, particularly the folksy one in no.4 and the syncopated theme of no.6, either of which might become a hit if Classic FM got hold of it. His slow movements are songlike and quite romantic in atmosphere – helped here by the harpsichordist who makes good use of his lute stop – if not exactly profound or poignant ... but nor do they try to be so. He manages plenty of jolly, bustling themes in his first movements and if his alternative solution to development is stopping, changing tempo and writing a new theme altogether, at least the attention is held. In short, cellists who have played Haydn till they are blue in the face and want something else that is suitable when a small classical orchestra is on the menu, might do a lot worse than have a look at Tricklir, especially nos. 4 and 6. And audiences would be very silly not to go along and hear them. Just as, in the same way, if you enjoy the Haydn Cello Concertos but don’t want to hear them till you’re sick of them – it’s not as if there are 104 like the symphonies – you’d do very well to get this disc.

Another reason for getting it is that you’ll hear some very fine cello playing from Rudin – Tricklir himself must have been quite a player – and some most infectiously bouncy support from the orchestra, as well as the right romantic sounds in slow movements. All excellently recorded with a well-written essay telling you all you need to know about Tricklir. Definitely worth exploring.

Two final points: we are told that the recording was made in the Mosfilm Tonstudious but, forgive my ignorance, where are they? (Moscow?). And secondly, the cellist you see on the cover is not Tricklir himself (maybe no portrait survives?) but a self-portrait by Zoffany, details of which are given in the booklet.

Christopher Howell

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