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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor, Op.104 [39:43]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 [23:42]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. Posth. [4:31]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Sonatina in A major, J 103 [9:42]
Enrico Mainardi (cello)
Sergio Lorenzi (piano)
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Artur Rother (Dvorák); Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Bremen/Hellmut Schnackenburg (Schumann)
rec. 11 October 1949, Berlin (Dvorák), 19 November 1949, Bremen (Schumann), 4 December 1942, Berlin (Chopin, Weber)
Radio Studio Recordings (Schumann - live)
MELOCLASSIC MC3013 [78:01]

Enrico Mainardi was born in 1897 in Milan, and at the age of three was given a small-sized cello which he learnt under the guidance of his father, a keen amateur. Between the ages of 5 and 13 he studied with Giuseppe Magrini at the Milan Conservatory and, on graduation, progressed to Hugo Becker at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. For his concert debut he played Haydn’s Cello Concerto. He was confined to Italy for the duration of WWI. Between 1924-1929 he had a spell as first cello of the Dresden Philharmonic, and also formed a string quartet with Szymon Goldberg at the first violin desk. He later joined the Berlin State Opera Orchestra as solo cellist at the request of Erich Kleiber. In 1933 Richard Strauss invited him to record Don Quixote in Berlin and this has been released on Dutton (CDBP 9746). In 1941 he succeeded Becker at the Hochschule für Musik, and the same year founded a trio with Edwin Fischer and Georg Kulenkampff, who was later replaced by Wolfgang Schneiderhan. His career, a large proportion of which was devoted to teaching, was focused in Germany, and he died in Munich in 1976.
Of the two concertos here, the Dvořák is the least successful. In the opening solo passage of the first movement Mainardi fails to grab the listener’s attention and make a statement. Yet, the second subject’s ‘big tune’ is expressive and ardent. I do find, on the whole, that his playing lacks the expressive range of say Piatigorsky, Tortelier or Fournier, and his one size fits all vibrato seriously limits his tonal palette. In this reading the conductor and soloist seem at odds, and the performance is bereft of a single vision. This is noticeable throughout. On several occasions, Rother sets one tempo, only for Mainardi to drag his feet and hold back.
Five weeks after the Dvořák was taped in Berlin the Schumann Concerto was aired in Bremen. Also a radio broadcast, this latter is marked as ‘live’ which I would assume denotes the presence of an audience. Although there’s more of a meeting of minds in the Mainardi/Schnackenburg collaboration, the cellist’s performance doesn’t match the emotional intensity and impact of Jacqueline du Pré’s 1963 live traversal from Berlin with the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Gerd Albrecht (Audite 95.622). Again, Mainardi’s tone is monochrome throughout.
The Chopin Nocturne is a lacklustre affair, the cellist making heavy weather of it. His tone is strident and is devoid of vibrancy. The arbitrary application of vibrato confers an ‘old-fashioned’ aura on the performance. Sergio Lorenzi provides no more than a pedestrian accompaniment, which doesn’t help. The Weber is altogether more satisfying. Although not stated, the Sonatina is sometimes referred to as Siciliano and Andante con moto e variationi, and is an arrangement by Piatigorsky. Mainardi phrases the theme elegantly, and the variations which follow are imaginatively characterized.

Browsing the cellist’s discography I noticed that he’d made commercial recordings of both concertos for DG. In the early 1940s, 78s were set down of the Dvořák and Schumann with Paul van Kempen and the Dresden Philharmonic and Staatskapelle Berlin respectively. Both were re-made for LP with Fritz Lehmann and the Berlin Philharmonic in the mid-1950s. A live recording of the Dvořák with Eugen Jochum and the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, dated 27 October 1950, has been issued by Tahra (TAH 638/9). Likewise, the Chopin and Weber pieces were commercially inscribed for DG, again with Sergio Lorenzi in the early 1940s. I’ve never heard any of these alternatives to offer any sort of comparison, but my colleague Jonathan Woolf has reviewed the Tahra release and offers some perceptive insights into Mainardi’s performance.

Stephen Greenbank



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