Clein (cello) Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon
MYASKOVSKY Mstislav Rostropovich
(cello) Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill
a change has overcome Elgar’s elegiac Cello Concerto! From
the awful under-rehearsed first performance - with a certain
John Barbirolli in the cellos - it has become an acknowledged
masterpiece. Also in the past forty years new performances
have had to contend with comparison with Jacqueline du Pré
whose most famous recording is available in several forms,
notably as a GROC.
Since then there has been a steady stream of recordings of
which I particularly like Robert Cohen (CFP) recorded when
he was an emerging cellist like Jamie Walton. However, last
year’s recording by Natalie Clein seems to me one of the great
performances. Yes, it has a lot of emotion, a risqué cover
and too many fillers but what feeling and playing together
with glorious sound and superb conducting by Vernon Handley!
This was one of the standouts of 2007 although I also greatly
enjoyed Paul Watkins’ rendition at the First Night of the
despite at least ten recordings, I was encouraged by Jonathan
Woolf’s review to try this new version. The first two movements
left me little cold and uninvolved which is unusual in this
piece; fine playing but a little restrained. Things got better
in the Adagio although I don’t think the recording
helps Walton’s tone and the orchestra seems a little detached.
I'm not suggesting that this piece must be played “heart on
sleeve” but I didn’t feel caught up; very competent but not
more than that for me. The Allegro had good things
but when compared to Natalie Clein’s version it didn’t seem
as organic or as satisfying. Of course the EMI recording has
Tod Handley who like Barbirolli before him is steeped in this
music and must have been a great aide to Natalie Clein. The
RLPO also sound a better band here than the Philharmonia whose
performance is a touch routine.
bonus on this Signum CD is that we get another concerto rather
than the tit-bits on EMI.
Myaskovsky was new to me although I compared a version by
Rostropovich in one of those Brilliant Russian boxes; you
can either get as reviewed above or in a set of 100 CDs! This
is well worth hearing and Jamie Walton is a good advocate
for its charms which do remind me at times of the Elgar. Rather
than a eulogy for the “Great War” and the end of life as Elgar
knew it, Myaskovsky’s work was in lament but also relief in
1945 to the end of WW2. Jamie Walton’s playing seems very
alluring during the Allegro Vivace with its Russian
themes and generally everyone seems more relaxed in this piece.
Rostropovich made his live recording in 1972 and is heartfelt
and also very well accompanied but does have coughing in places!
Hearing this has made me order Slava’s
EMI recording under Sargent!
a good modern recording Walton is fine and made me feel he’d
perhaps have been better advised to choose a lesser known
piece as coupling. Also, for a full price disc 54 minutes
is a bit stingy!
conclude, it should be obvious that for the Elgar I much prefer
the Clein and feel that for the Elgar Jamie Walton wasn’t
quite ready to record. Could this be why it’s taken 18 months
to come out? There are signs of great promise here and I’m
looking forward to his next recording where it is to be hoped
that he will feel more comfortable and, dare I say it, have
more sympathetic support and sound.
David R Dunsmore
see also Review
by Jonathan Woolf