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Cello Abbey
Sir William WALTON (1902-1983)

Cello Concerto (1956/1975) [27:20]
Ina BOYLE (1889-1967)
Elegy for cello and orchestra (1913) [7:24]
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Cello Concerto (1918) [27:35]
Nadège Rochat (cello)
Staatskapelle Weimar/Paul Meyer
rec. May 2016, Weimarhalle

This is Nadège Rochat's third album; the previous one was an ARS Produktion CD of the Lalo and Milhaud concertos with the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlinger under Ola Rudner.

The Elgar Concerto's predominance of inwardness clearly appeals to Rochat. That is where the emphasis of her reading lies. True, the storm-clouds of the first movement, the bite of the Lento and the lively heaviness of the final Allegro are by no means underplayed. That said, what I carried away from the listening experience was Rochat's unwavering fixity of gaze on the distant horizon and the work's elegiac burden.

The Walton lulls in the Moderato and the Tema ed improvvisazioni, basking in the pulse-slowing Mediterranean sun. While there is bite and flight in the Allegro Rochat's is an interpretation inclined to become contemplative and to sing from the shade. Like the Viola Concerto this is one of the more problematic Walton works. For it to shine you need the sort of rarely encountered impressive grip and edgy concentration you find in Piatigorsky's live European premiere with Sargent. It's on Lyrita REAM.2114. The works shines strongly in this recording, much as the raw, coarse and throaty Sony-CBS disc of Dupré with Barenboim in the Elgar Concerto outstrips in grip and emotive warmth the EMI Classics studio Dupré/Barbirolli.

I am very pleased that Rochat has opted for Ina Boyle's Elegie. Boyle was an Irish composer and an occasional pupil of Vaughan Williams. Like her countryman in Northern Ireland, Norman Hay, her musical works have taken an obliterating plunge away into the depths. The Elegie - she initially had it down to be a Romance - is a thing of Brahmsian topography. It was written in the year before the Great War. Its undulating pensive contours are tenderly brushed in this its first recording. Rochat confides, in her liner-note, that she will be recording Boyle's Psalm for cello and orchestra in the near future - come the day. There are many other Boyle works of interest including three symphonies (1927, 1930, 1951) of which the First, Glencree was dusted off for last year's RTE 'Composing the Island' festival. You can hear one movement of Glencree on RTE Lyric FM CD153. Then again there's a violin concerto and the tone poem The Magic Harp (revived in 1991 by the Ulster Orchestra and Proinnseas O'Duinn and recorded by Dutton in 2011). There's much else by this friend and contemporary of Elizabeth Maconchy.

The cosily cocooned sound achieved by the Ars Produktion team envelops the listener without blunting the treble range and I noted a plethora of pleasing detail especially in the Walton.

There is much to be taken from this disc. The respect and love that Rochat has for these works was no doubt influenced by her years of study in London's Royal Academy of Musc as well as her lessons with Robert Cohen, who at the age of only 21 recorded the Elgar for Classics for Pleasure.

I should add that the orchestra here are in superb form and make great and idiomatic capital of the Elgar in particular. Listen to them in the finale of the Elgar; Norman Del Mar and the RPO could not have bettered this.

There's always a downside so 'nul points' for whoever perpetrated "Edgar" Elgar on the electronic track readout - not that most people will see this.

The Walton and Elgar have been companions on disc before. Last year Stephen Isserlis was the cellist for the same concerto coupling and other works for Hyperion. Isserlis does not offer the Boyle but does include pieces by Holst, father and daughter.

I hope that Rochat will now move to record the Finzi and Bax concertos alongside the Boyle Psalm. Also, there is still room for what will be a second recording of Florent Schmitt's fascinating Introit, Récit et Congé for cello and orchestra. She would also, I think, warm to one of the neglected masterworks of the English Musical Renaissance: John Foulds' Cello Concerto. It is equally effective in both guises - either as the Cello Sonata or as the Cello Concerto.

Rob Barnett



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