are not new recordings though they seem to be receiving a
renewed heave-ho in promotional terms. That being the case
one has to consider how representative the two concertos
are and how adeptly they’ve been presented.
first concerto, entitled the Grande, was written in
1913 according to New Grove and 1915 according to the booklet
documentation; I think the earlier date is the more probable
and it aligns rather more with the music as well. The orchestra
is quite a big, defiant one clearly influenced by French
Impressionism in its widest sense. There’s an attractive
role for some of the solo brass – trumpet especially – but
the most constant feature of the writing is its rhapsodic
intent. Placing the cadenza toward the end of the central
movement is effective if not especially convincing in structural
terms, nor in truth emotively. The multi-partite finale
gives some evocative passagework for the soloist though I’m
not sure how many auditors would cry “Villa-Lobos” at any
point throughout its twenty-minute length. Parts of the finale,
with its lyric contours and winnowing orchestration, strike
me as the most representative and successful. Altogether
although reclamation on disc is more than acceptable, in
the concert hall I fear Op.50 would just drop down dead.
later work, the 1953 Concerto, is a noticeably superior work.
It was written for and first performed by Aldo Parisot, who
left behind an LP recording of it. And I believe Parisot
made some significant suggestions to the composer that he
integrated into the score. It certainly seems to fall idiomatically
under the cellist’s fingers. This is a four-movement work,
compact and well structured from the sonata-form Allegro
onwards. Songful and heartfelt this makes a considerable
impression, and would make more of one were the recording
better (more below). The second movement evokes Bachianas
Brasileiras No.5. There’s an engagingly brash folkloric
lilt to the Scherzo and some finely established cadential
The finale is enjoyable if ultimately something of a disappointment
in strictly musical terms.
soloist Ulrich Schmid is a fine player and his partnership
with the North-West German Philharmonic Orchestra and Dominique
Roggen is notably eloquent. But the recording does for them
all. It’s swimmy and spread and there’s a fatal lack of detailing.
Worse still the soloist is swamped by the orchestra. He should
really sing out in the slow movement of the Second Concerto;
unfortunately he’s all but inaudible and that’s a recording
problem, not that of the soloist. This is a shame because
the contours of the Second Concerto in particular are notably
well done. In the face of this one can only suggest that
the rewards of the disc are tepid at best.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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