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Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor Op.104 (1895) [39:23]
Piano Trio in E minor Op.90, Dumky (1890-91) [32:19]
Sebastian Klinger (cello), Lisa Batiashvili (violin), Milana Chernyavska (piano), Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern/Simon Gaudenz
rec. 21-24 October 2014, Sendesaal der Saarlandischen Rundfunks, Saarbrucken; 7 & 8 July 2014, Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich

This rather disappointing disc features youngish performers and even quite a young orchestra, formed in 2007 by the fusion of the Saabrücken and Leiserslautern radio ensembles. As the biographies in the booklet are the usual agents’ gush, rather than anything useful, I cannot tell you how old the protagonist Sebastian Klinger is, but he was principal cellist of the Bavarian Radio SO from 2004 to this year and teaches at the Academy of Music and Theatre, Hamburg. He has recorded the Bach solo Suites for Oehms.

At the start of Dvorák’s Concerto the rhythm is fairly well defined by the Swiss conductor Simon Gaudenz but it could be firmer – the composer was a stickler for note values – and the second theme introduced by the horn is rather self-conscious. When Klinger finally enters, we seem to have lived through an eternity already; and he too gets bogged down at the second subject. This is not simply a matter of tempo. As a diagnostic tool I played through a favourite version, by the great Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and the Czech Philharmonic under Zdenek Kosler: they take 16 minutes over the first movement, to the 15 of Klinger and Gaudenz, but their rhythms are more precise and their changes of tempo are organic and convincing. Klinger has a pleasantly warm focused tone but could vary it more, and in general he makes heavy weather of this Allegro. In the Adagio, Klinger ‘sings’ nicely enough but even more, at the slower tempo, one notices his habit of starting his vibrato late on some notes. This lovely movement fails to get off the ground. Everyone seems more engaged in the finale: the rhythm is better at the start, Klinger is accurate and he even varies his tone a little. His playing is quite moving at the end but to sum up, this is not a Dvorák Concerto that leaps out of the loudspeakers to take me by storm.

The problem in the Dumky Trio is quite different. The playing seems delightful from all three musicians, especially the pianist, but the Bavarian Radio studio team have come up with a resonant recording that sounds muddled from the very first bars. It is tolerable when the music is quiet or medium quiet, but even then little interjections by the cellist, as in the Third and Fourth Dumkas, are barely audible amid the sonic mush. At fortissimo the three instruments set up such opposing resonances that listening is uncomfortable. As there must be myriad versions of this trio, this one is not needed, which is a pity when the talented three have done their best to regale us.

In the Dvorák Concerto I must confess a bias towards Czech conductors and, where possible, the Czech Philharmonic. Pablo Casals is still in a class of his own. It may be relevant that Klinger’s recording took four days, whereas those of Casals and Tsutsumi were completed in just one day. If you want a version by Rostropovich, the Boult is the best – certainly not the Karajan, which even the cellist himself did not like. (The Talich was to have been made with Sádlo, who had prepared it carefully with the conductor, but at the last minute Rostropovich was substituted and he could not absorb Talich’s style in two or three days.) The earlier of Fournier’s two versions with Kubelík, with the Philharmonia, is to be preferred, almost like chamber music. Others I enjoy are two with Václav Neumann, by Sádlo and Chuchro (the latter’s earlier version with Waldhans may be even better but has never been on CD); Alisa Weilerstein with Belohlavek, very individual; and Michaela Fukacová with the Prague SO under the same conductor. André Navarra’s studio recording is lovely but if you can find his live Prague Radio version, it is even finer. For Starker, the Mercury recording with Doráti improves on his Columbia. Steven Isserlis is interesting, as ever, and provides the original ending as well as the revision. Also of interest are the two performances by Emanuel Feuermann, who did not live to make his planned recording with Eugene Ormandy.

The best Dumky, without a doubt, is the Suk Trio’s DG recording, now on Eloquence, the only disc they made during the two years when Milos Sádlo was standing in for Chuchro while the latter studied in Moscow. Of course there are others but this one, coupled with an excellent Viennese ‘Trout’ Quintet, is special.

Tully Potter



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