Antonín DVORÁK (1841 – 1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 (1895) [39:14]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 (1876) [18:42]
Truls Mřrk (cello)
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. Oslo Concert Hall, 12-14 May 1992
VIRGIN CLASSICS 50999 628623 2 5 [58:05]

Of all the works for cello and orchestra in the romantic standard repertoire these two are probably the most often played and recorded. The only other serious contender is the Elgar, which today may be heard more often than the Tchaikovsky. The coupling Dvorák/Tchaikovsky is a quite natural one. They were contemporaneous – born within a year of each other – and they also met. While Tchaikovsky wrote his work at a fairly early age – it was composed at about the time of his Fourth Symphony – Dvorák was elderly, having already written all his symphonies. The inspiration seems to have been when he heard Victor Herbert’s Cello Concerto (presumably the Second) during his stay in the USA.

My first recording of the Dvorák was Pierre Fournier’s with The Berlin Philharmonic under Szell on DG. This was marvellous playing and the only drawback was the recording balance which highlighted the solo instrument and had the orchestra fairly far behind. Fournier was a true aristocrat and his noble playing is still what I hear when thinking of the Dvorák concerto. In DG’s catalogue there is another recording, which has tended to overshadow Fournier’s: the one with Rostropovich and Karajan. Slava’s intensity is in a class of its own but it is kind of larger-than-life and though I am a great admirer of Rostropovich I often feel he stands between the music and the listener.

Truls Mřrk is more in the Fournier mould, playing with technical brilliance but with smooth beautiful tone. He phrases with elegance and a fine sense for the musical line and has all the power needed for the dramatic outbursts. There is really nothing that bothers me about his reading and he is well assisted by the Oslo Philharmonic under their then chief conductor, the charismatic Mariss Jansons. This is true also of the Tchaikovsky Variations, though I must admit that for me it never became a favourite work.

The recording is first class and I can’t believe anyone buying this disc will be seriously disappointed. For a more personal and ultimately more wholehearted reading the Rostropovich/Karajan recording is hard to beat and I still rank the Fournier/Szell as my favourite – but isn’t that often the case with our first loves? Love is blind is the saying; in musical terms one could express it as ‘love is deaf’, but honestly I don’t think there are any serious blemishes on the Fournier recording. Nor are there on this Virgin reissue and at budget price it is a real find.

Göran Forsling

A real find.

see also review of previous release by Peter Lawson