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Jonathan Woolf
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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Concerto in B in B flat major, G482 (arr. Grützmacher) [18:26]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 [23:18]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor [18:33]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Variations on a Rococo Theme Op.33 [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]

Tibor de Machula (1912-1982) was born in Hungary and had his first cello lessons with Adolf Schiffer. Progress was swift, resulting in a debut with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra performing Haydn's Cello Concerto in D major in 1925. By the age of 15 he was off to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia for studies with Felix Salmond. He remained in the USA for three years before returning to Europe. A concert career was launched with tours of South Africa, Scandinavia and the Dutch Colonies. In 1936 he was invited by Wilhelm Furtwängler to become the principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He held the post for eleven years before becoming the principal cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1947. He remained in this post for thirty years until his retirement in 1977. He had become a Dutch citizen in 1955.  He died 18 December 1982 in Abcoude, Netherlands.

Boccherini's No.9 is the best known of his twelve cello concertos, and it's easy to see why. The abundant lyricism and mellifluous outpourings have gained it much popularity over time. The composer was himself a fine cellist and knew how to exploit the technical capabilities of the instrument. De Machula performs it to the manner born with unruffled ease and intensity. The melancholic slow movement is expressively sculpted and the finale is delivered with lightness and wit.

Robert Schumann took only two weeks to pen his Cello Concerto, and he was never to hear it performed. A première took place four years after his death in Oldenburg, with Ludwig Ebert as soloist. Based on three movements, it's performed continuously from beginning to end without a break. De Machula delivers an impassioned reading. He takes an introspective view of the first two movements, whilst the finale abounds with effervescence. Although the orchestration is transparent, Karl Böhm points up and highlights the various instrumental sections to wonderful effect.

One of the positive aspects of the 1952 recording of the Saint-Saëns Concerto is de Machula's collaboration with the conductor Hans Rosbaud. The orchestra is the South West German Radio Orchestra in Baden-Baden, which Rosbaud directed from 1948 until his death in 1962. There's plenty of fire in the opening movement but, for me, it's the glowing intimacy of the middle movement that really distinguishes this reading. Rosbaud coaxes magical pizzicato delicacy from the strings, gently supporting Machula's poetic singing line. Only six days later, Machula made the recording of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations under the sympathetic direction of Hans Müller-Kray at the helm of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. The soloist is very forwardly profiled, and we're able to fully savour his burnished singing tone. The variations are imaginatively characterized.

Two of the radio recordings date from the mid 1940s, with the remaining airings set down in September 1952. Sound-wise, the earliest broadcast from April 1944, namely the Boccherini, is in coarser sound than the Schumann from a year later. The 1952 broadcasts sound significantly better to me, rendering more warmth, bloom and richness to the solo cello. The annotations, supplied by Michael Waiblinger, provide an excellent, detailed biography of the cellist. Although de Machula's discography is fairly substantial, these broadcasts add significantly to his recorded legacy.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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