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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Concerto in B in B flat major, G482 orch. and arr. Grützmacher [18:26]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 (1850) [23:18]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor (1872) [18:33]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Variations on a Rococo Theme Op.33 (1876) [16:53]
Tibor de Machula (cello)
Omroep Symphonie Orkest/Pierre Reinards, rec. April 1944 (Boccherini)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Karl Böhm, rec. January 1945 (Schumann)
SWF Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden/Hans Rosbaud, rec. September 1952 (Saint-Saëns)
SDR Symphony Orchestra/Hans Müller-Kray, rec. September 1952 (Tchaikovsky).
MELOCLASSIC MC3014 [77:57]

The radio recordings here come from either side of the great dividing line in Tibor de Machula’s professional life. The Boccherini and Schumann concertos were taped toward the end of the Second World War when Machula (1912-82) was still principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1947 he left the orchestra to take up the same position with the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, a position he held for a further three decades. The Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky works were recorded in 1952, three years before he became a Dutch citizen.

His Boccherini makes for a fine point of comparison with the 1955 LP recording he made with Paumgartner (review). The 1944 reading with the Omroep Symphony under Pierre Reinards comes from Hilversum and is in characteristically fine sound. Machula’s eloquent tonal qualities and mastery of subtly deployed rubato are on show and so too his sense of hushed romanticism in the slow movement. Always a sensitive stylist he lacks for little in cadenza flair either. The Schumann Concerto follows with Karl Böhm in January 1945. A Furtwängler-directed performance from 1942 has seen quite a lot of circulation, probably more, in fact, than the Phillips LP Machula made with Rudolf Moralt and the Vienna Symphony. Furtwängler is more direct in the opening movement, sculpting arguably a greater degree of tension than Böhm, but Machula’s 1944 reading is notable for interesting fluctuations of tempo and has a fine rapport between soloist and conductor as well as an excellent recorded sound and balance.

His position as distinguished section leader in Amsterdam didn’t limit his opportunities for soloing. The Saint-Saëns A minor Concerto comes from Baden-Baden, which is almost synonymous with the figure of Hans Rosbaud. Machula had a history with this work. After he’d had a memorable success with the Haydn D major concerto in Budapest – his orchestral debut – he followed it up with the Saint-Saëns nine days later. Still only thirteen, an Italian tour followed almost immediately, though he was soon to consolidate by studying with Felix Salmond in America from 1927-30. This is not a work to be found in Machula’s studio discography, so its survival is a matter of great pleasure, not least in so eloquent and expressive a performance as this. His bowing in the finale is splendidly controlled. A week or so later Machula was in Stuttgart to perform the Rococo Variations, neatly characterised and crisply dispatched, with that city’s supremo of the time, Hans Müller-Kray.

The very helpful booklet is neatly housed in a gatefold album. Splendid restorations enhance this valuable release.

Jonathan Woolf

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