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Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)
A European Tribute
rec. 1978-85
DANACORD DACOCD871 [73:28 + 73:05]

There is no diminution in the quality of Danacord’s tribute twofers devoted to cellist Erling Blöndal Bengtsson. The latest focuses on broadcasts for WDR, SWR and the BBC made between 1978 and 1985 (I can’t find anything from 1986 as claimed by the booklet). It encompasses varied and interesting repertoire, as well as serving up canonic examples of his art and in every way reprises the high standards already set, and that includes a comprehensive booklet note by Jesper Buhl.

Bengtsson recorded a considerable amount commercially but it’s been a valuable function of the series to hear how much has been preserved by various broadcasting companies or was captured off-air. The WDR tapes include a 1978 performance of Toch’s Impromptu for solo cello, composed in 1963 for the cellist’s teacher Piatigorsky. Bengtsson lavishes his considerable tonal resources here, with viola-like elegance in the opening Andante, crisp quasi-conversational wit in the central Allegretto and ruminative legato in the concluding Adagio. Bengtsson noted here that it represented to him ‘serious thoughts about life’s end’ and he certainly plays the concluding pizzicati with dappled stoic resignation.

The lion’s share of the first disc is taken by a splendid performance of Mozart’s Divertimento in E Flat major, with Igor Ozim and Rainer Moog the two top class string colleagues. Warm and lucid this is a tricky work both to co-ordinate and project but the three string players play with great refinement of tone and crisp sense of characterisation – the Minuet is especially charming in this reading. He teams with his fellow cello professor at the Hochschule in Cologne, Boris Pergamenschikow, for an elegant and decidedly non-professorial reading of one of Offenbach’s duos. They are both joined by another cellist, Georg Faust, who led the Berlin Philharmonic’s cellos, and double bassist Walter Meuter for one of Wagenseil’s fascinating, topsy-turvy pieces, his Sonata No.3 (ie a string quartet) from the Suite des pieces WWV445, scored for three cellos and double bass. This lively, elegant and songful work has splendid distribution of melodic material and earns a performance of great tonal richness.

Maria Bergmann was a resourceful and excellent pianist, a mainstay of South German radio performances. A number of her collaborations with visiting soloists have been released in recent years by labels such as Meloclassic. Here’s another brace. First there’s a colouristically rich and structurally acute reading of Mendelssohn’s First Sonata to rank alongside the one from Icelandic Radio with Anker Blyme (DACOCD740). And then a November 1982 performance of Alan Rawsthorne’s C major sonata in which they catch its glowering intensity as well as its melancholic solemnity with finely calibrated perception. For the BBC Bengtsson taped Walton’s Passacaglia for solo cello, composed for Rostropovich. Bengtsson’s Walton Concerto is on DACOCD737 but don’t overlook this seven-minute Passacaglia; eloquent, sweeping, with a rich variety of shades of colour and timbre, illuminated through Bengtsson’s canny bowing. The final work is Herman Koppel’s Cello Sonata of 1956, premičred by and dedicated to Bengtsson. He’d already recorded it on LP by the time he came to make this 1985 broadcast with Paul Hamburger, but his command of its syntax was unrivalled in accomplishment and he projects its remarkable central Chaconne with intuitive understanding.

The tapes are in excellent condition and have been equally well engineered. This is a series that continues to reward the listener.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: John France

Contents
Ernst TOCH (1887-1964)
Impromptu, Op. 90c for cello solo (1963) [7:37]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Divertimento E flat major, KV 563 (1788) [41:53]
Igor Ozim (violin): Rainer Moog (viola)
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Cours méthodique de duos pour deux violoncelles: Lettre C, Op. 51 - Book 2 in G minor (1839-77) [10:23]
Boris Pergamenschikow (cello)
Georg Christian WAGENSEIL (1715-1777)
Sonata No. 3 in C major "Suite des pieces", WWV 445 [13:35]
Boris Pergamenschikow (cello): Georg Faust (cello): Walter Meuter (double bass)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Sonata No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 45 (1838) [27:07]
Maria Bergmann (piano)
Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major (1948) [14:44]
Maria Bergmann (piano)
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Passacaglia for Cello Solo (1979-80) [6:40]
Herman D. KOPPEL (1908-1998)
Sonata, Op. 62 (1956) [24:04]
Paul Hamburger (piano)



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