This recording was made in London in November 1991. The German cellist Maria
Kliegel has the enviable advantage of having studied the cello in America
with the Hungarian cellist, Janos Starker and became his assistant. The Starker
recording of the Dvorák is a clear winner and Tortelier's recording
with Sir Malcolm Sargent is also recommended.
From a professional, musical and technical point of view, which is totally
objective, the Elgar is a very poor work. And why is it that British soloists
and British orchestras play it so feebly and self-indulgently? To watch a
British cellist play it always seems to be accompanied by their pulling awful
faces and acting the part of someone about to break down into tears and go
I saw Starker play the Elgar and he was not trying to win an Oscar! He played
it straight and in a very un-British way ... no nobilmentes or pomposity
and he did not wallow in mawkish nauseating sentimentality. He ignored the
slowing down in the finale and therefore cut a few minutes off the piece.
And, he did not make the usual ugly slur of a perfect fifth at the beginning
of the concerto. As a result I found the work to be too good to be by Elgar.
Kliegel does observe the annoying slur but she plays the piece almost as
Starker did and, quite frankly, it works. The music is no longer pathetic
and pitiful but strong and robust and the orchestral parts are stunningly
realised. It is explosive, sometimes excitingly noisy and terribly non-British.
I am afraid that some of the Elgar's vulgarities still remain but this
performance is so positive. It has a common message. We have to get on with
life and go forward not live in an unhappy past. Kliegel's speeds are also
generally convincing and the conductor, who was a student of Christoph von
Dohnanyi, makes the music blaze at times ... and, please, don't call
the fire brigade! The first big orchestral entry is a knockout!
But it is the soloist's simplicity and lack of ostentation that wins through.
I shall never admire this work but I will continue to enjoy this revealing
performance ... occasionally!
The Dvorák is the exact opposite of the Elgar since it is a masterpiece
and probably the finest concerto written for the cello. If you compare it
with the Elgar, see how Dvorák deals with the slow tender passage
in the finale to great effect and without whingeing. I think Kliegel's
tempi are a tiny bit cautious and there a few rough edges in the orchestra
but it is a good performance and at the bargain price one cannot complain.
But I have left the best until last. In the exquisite and profoundly moving
passages in the Dvorák there is a beautiful cello tone and the orchestral
playing of quiet passages is a delight.