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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 (1850) [25:26]
Introduction and Allegro Appassionato for piano and orchestra, Op.92 (1849) [16:28]
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54 (1841-45) [32:01]
Jacqueline du Pre (cello); Daniel Barenboim (piano)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim (Cello Concerto)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau)
rec. May-June 1968 (cello); June 1974, Abbey Road London.
WARNER CLASSICS 9933442 [74:12]

This compilation has been out at least a couple of times before but here it is re-released by Warner Classics. It’s certainly very much cheaper than previously as Amazon has it priced at around £3, although it has not been re-mastered. This does not make it a bargain unless the performances are worth hearing but these are very good and make an admirable choice for a newcomer to these pieces or if you want an alternative to the usual Schumann/Grieg combination.
 
Schumann’s Cello Concerto is a product of his later years and there have been several very fine recordings. Some may find Jacqueline Du Pre’s version a little self-indulgent, especially in the slow movement, but if like me you find her emotion a positive asset then you will find this very rewarding. It's a very fine performance and the empathy between her and Barenboim produces something very special. A live recording made when Du Pre was only 18 has recently been released. My colleague Stephen Greenbank gave this a favourable review, finding it more engaging and spontaneous and preferred the mono sound. Hearing this recording is quite an experience. Du Pre’s playing “on the wing” is remarkable and provides a different experience to the studio recording. The four years between performances brings a maturity but not at the expense of trhe emotion and all those special Du Pre qualities. The sound on the studio recording is to my ears very good and wears its 46 years lightly. To have both easily available is a real treat and any admirer of this wonderful cellist should hear both; it is just so sad that fate denied a later recording to see how she matured.
 
TheIntroduction and Allegro appassionato is much less well known than the two concertos. It has never been popular since the first performance by Clara, four years after the Piano Concerto. It is a highly romantic and forceful piece that seems to look forward to Brahms, which is not surprising. It makes a good interlude on this disc and the playing of Barenboim and the NPO is first rate.
 
I have heard Barenboim’s recording of the Concerto and Introduction and Allegro several times over the last couple of years as friends of ours have a French compilation with this on, although in that case the Cello Concerto is played by the great Paul Tortelier. As far as the Concerto is concerned, it’s a very fine performance of this “war horse” and I find Barenboim’s playing of the highest quality. He seems to be the driving force and one is reminded that in Beethoven and Mozart he directed from the keyboard. Fischer-Dieskau may not have been thought of as a conductor but he does a pretty good job here and certainly the LPO play very well indeed. The sound is good for forty years ago. All in all this is superbly realised. There is also a very recommendable live version with Barenboim and Celibidache (EMI Classics 5 574172) as a complement to this recording.
 
David R Dunsmore

Masterwork Index: Schumann piano concerto