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DVORÁK. Cello Concerto. ELGAR. Cello Concerto.    Maria Kliegel, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Halász. Naxos 8.550503 [DDD] [73' 11"].

 


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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 completely mad.

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 nobilimentes 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.

Kleigel 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. Kleigel's speeds are also generally convincing and the conductor, who was a student of Christoph von Dchriányi, 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.

Reviewer

David Wright

Performances

Recording

Reviewer

David Wright

Performances

Recording



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