British Cello Concertos

John JOUBERT (b.1927)
Concerto in Two Movements for Cello and Chamber Orchestra (2012) [23:02]
Robert SIMPSON (1921-1997)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1991) [28:40]
Christopher WRIGHT (b.1954)
Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra (2011) [18:56]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton
rec. Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, UK, 11-13 December 2013
LYRITA SRCD344 [70:38]

At the heart of this CD is the cellist Raphael Wallfisch. He not only performs these pieces with the utmost musicianship but they were also all written for him. Since the BBC NOW play with their customary skill under William Boughton, about as well established an expert on his native British music as one could wish to have, this CD is home and dry. The Hoddinott Hall is one of the best acoustics in the country and Lyrita's engineers have, as usual, produced a splendid sound. I did wonder about the slight left-placement of the cello but that is where soloists usually sit so it may simply reflect reality.

Joubert's work is, as the title states, in two movements. Each lasts a little over 11 minutes. Considering it is scored for only double woodwind, horns and strings, it displays a wide range of instrumental colours and is not only impressively coherent but also makes a very pleasurable sound. There is plenty of energy in the work. This is not a pastoral idyll one can allow to just wash over you. Joubert keeps one firmly engaged throughout and reminded me that I have neglected my sole Joubert CD prior to this, the First Symphony, also on Lyrita.

The late Robert Simpson was a very important symphonist and composer of string quartets. His musical structures require close attention from his listeners. This concerto, one of a mere handful, is typical of his later style. It was in fact his last orchestral piece. It consists of a theme and eleven variations played without a break and lasting very nearly half an hour. It is by turns lyrical and dramatic, ending quietly. Though the orchestra is large the textures are always clear and I found myself gripped by his typically involved musical argument right up to the 'calm resignation' of the coda, described thus in the excellent notes by Paul Conway.

Finally Christopher Wright has come to my attention only recently, having heard an extract from his lovely Violin Concerto of 2010 (Dutton CDLX 7286), so I was not surprised to discover that his Cello Concerto is also a fascinatingly individual creation full of lovely sounds but also of much energy and momentum.

We do not hear many different cello concertos in the concert hall. Those by Elgar, Dvorak, Schumann and Shostakovich are deservedly the most frequently performed. The three recorded on this CD are of a quality and approachability to match such as Saint-SaŽns, Hindemith, Martinu and Walton. They should most certainly not be allowed to lapse into obscurity.

Dave Billinge

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