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Julius RIETZ (1812-1877)
Fantaisie, op. 2 (ca. 1830s) [22:29]
Cello Concerto, op. 16 (ca. 1830s) [21:17]
Johann Benjamin GROSS (1809-1848)
Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 38 (ca. 1830s) [27:41]
Klaus-Dieter Brandt (cello)
L’arpa Festante/Riccardo Minasi
rec. 2011, St. Kilian-Kirche, Wiesbaden, Germany
Reviewed as flac lossless download.
ARS PRODUKTION ARS38113 SACD [71:27]

Here we have two more composers whose existence had passed me by until this CD was issued. They were both professional cellists, playing alongside one another in the Berlin Königstädter Theatre orchestra in the 1820s. Rietz was a friend of Mendelssohn, and gained the post of assistant, and then chief conductor in Düsseldorf on Mendelssohn’s recommendation. After Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, Rietz took up the Leipzig posts of Kapellmeister, conductor of the Singakademie and the Gewandhaus concerts and as teacher of composition at the Conservatory. Gross, one of the great cello virtuosos of his time, toured widely, playing in a string quartet with the great violinist Ferdinand David. He settled in St Petersburg as principal cellist for the royal orchestra and private tutor for the son of the Tsar.
 
Haydn was one of the first to write concertos for the cello, but with Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn not contributing to the genre, there is a significant gap before Schumann’s which was premiered in 1850. These three works go some way towards filling that gap. Their exact dates are not known, but are believed to all date from the 1830s. They are strongly romantic in nature, full of melodies, interesting scoring for the orchestra and sufficient challenges for the soloist. If I was forced to make a choice of the best, I would plump for the Rietz concerto, which has distinct Mendelssohnian influences in the finale. In reality, they are of more or less equal quality, providing much pleasure without being unearthed masterworks.
 
The soloist and orchestra play period instruments with limited vibrato, leading to the occasional moment of harshness, but overall, the sound produced is pleasing. L’arpa festante, named after a seventeenth century cantata by Giovanni Maccioni — there’s another name I’d not encountered — is principally a Baroque ensemble which can expand to accommodate Classical and early Romantic era works. In this recording, it numbers 33, and at times, a bigger sound would have been welcome.
 
The notes are very informative and the sound quality is good without being outstanding: I found the timpani to be overly resonant.
 
I very much enjoyed this excursion into the little travelled world of the early Romantic cello concerto.
 
David Barker