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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Cello Concerto in E minor, op.85 (1919) [28:25]
In Moonlight (arr. Julian Milone) [3:16]
La Capricieuse, op.17 (arr. Julian Milone) [4:46]
Romance, op.62 (arr. Julian Milone) [5:47]
Salut d’Amour (arr. Julian Milone) [2:58]
Chanson de Matin, op.15/2 (arr. Julian Milone) [3:16]
Sospiri, op.70 (arr. Julian Milone) [3:51]
Natalie Clein (cello)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
rec. 28-29 May 2007, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 5014092 [52:19]
Experience Classicsonline


Good performances of the Cello Concerto are hardly thin on the ground. And this is a good performance. Natalie Clein is recorded in sniff-conscious close up and her powerful, expressive tone is thus magnified; she doesn’t yet project like this in concert, as I can attest. She has a penchant for slight metrical dalliance and for a surfeit of tenutos but she plays with emotional commitment and technical security sufficient to dispel concerns as to indulgence. It’s a work with which she has been associated for a number of years now. Handley ensures the falling wind figures are tight and on the money; the brass is trenchant and whiplash; chording is excellent. The orchestral fabric ensures we hear things that less experienced practitioners fail to bring out; wind lines are especially evocative. There is a fine hushed pianissimo in the slow movement, the heart of the affair – where Clein is elastic in her phrasing. And the finale sees once more those combative brass and tactile winds to the fore. Rhythms are stamped out tightly but Clein occasionally distends the melodic line too much – very communicative but less persuasive architecturally.
 
So a fine performance of the concerto, if one that tends to linger a little too much for my own tastes.
 
Clein and Handley then combine on a series of well-known Elgar works arranged by Julian Milone for cello and orchestra. This is really a strange collection of non-cellistic morceaux. In Moonlight works well enough; it’s not too dragged out. La Capricieuse encroaches on the violin repertoire. It has a rather salon profile that thereby robs it of incision and wit. The central, contrastive espressivo episode doesn’t really work on the cello. The Romance was originally written for bassoon and I don’t object to this version. Salut d’Amour gets trotted out – there’s more than a hint of the Hotel Cecil Orchestra on Zonophone 78s; but at least there’s not too much sugar about this arrangement or the speed with which it’s taken. And there’s more than a touch of the George Melachrinos about Chanson de Matin. Still that’s far preferable in my book to the bizarre register fumbling involved in Sospiri, which is, to put it crudely, mutilated.  
 
I doubt you’ll play these arrangements too often so that leaves us with the Cello Concerto – a warm, highly expressive, though very closely recorded performance. I like Frenchmen in this concerto – they tend to get the emotional balance right – but I’ve always liked Pini from a semi-historical perspective. There are plenty of contemporary performances out there; I admire this Clein performance but it’s a tough ask to promote just the concerto.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
see also review by Bob Briggs



 


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