Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 [22.23]
Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61 [36.21]
Jan Vogler (cello)
Dresden Festival Orchestra/Ivor Bolton
rec. 27-31 May 2016, Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany
SONY CLASSICS 88985 372122 [58.44]

This is Jan Vogler’s second recorded document of the Schumann Cello Concerto. First time round was on Berlin Classics in 2000 with the Münchener Kammerorchester under Christoph Poppen, coupled with Jörg Widmann’s Cello Concerto Dunkle Saiten, a work dedicated to the cellist and enthusiastically reviewed for MusicWeb International by Hubert Culot. For his latest thoughts, Vogler is partnered by the Dresden Festival Orchestra, an ensemble founded in 2012. This period instrument group of ‘international specialists in historically informed performance practice from Europe’s most respected Early Music ensembles’, get together annually, under their chief conductor Ivor Bolton. For the Concerto recording, Vogler has fitted gut strings to his 1707 Stradivarius Ex Castelbarco/Fau.

The transparency of orchestral textures is a compelling feature of this period performance. Vogler tames the gut strings to obtain maximum tonal colour, and there’s certainly no loss of opulence in his sound. What I find attractive is that he’s never over-indulgent, and carefully avoids over-romanticizing the line, with rubato judiciously and instinctively applied. There’s a real feel of primus inter pares. The haunting lyricism of the slow movement, marked Langsam, enables Vogler’s poetic vision to come to the fore. The finale is an enthusiastic and joyous tour-de-force, dispatched with technical flair and brilliance. The vexed question of Schumann’s orchestration being sparse, exposed in places and not overly adventurous, seems irrelevant here. Bolton points up some delightful woodwind passages throughout, and the finale has weight and power.

The Second Symphony has to be one of the finest performances I've ever encountered. Once again transparency of texture is a winning element. Bolton makes his mark from the very opening bars, achieving nobility of gesture. Once the movement gets under way, the players bring rhythmic energy and drive to it.  The Scherzo is light and nimble and its brisk pacing adds to the excitement and allure. The solemn Adagio espressivo is eloquently portrayed, impassioned and tragic. The finale has vigour and verve. It keeps you on the edge of your seat to the very end. It’s nothing short of thrilling.

Well-recorded, the acoustic of the Lukaskirche, Dresden is ideal in every way, conferring sufficient warmth and just the right amount of resonance. As Schumann performances go, these traversals set the bar high.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Michael Cookson (Recording of the Month)

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