This fine recording of Dvorák's Cello Concerto by Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey with Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra is as generous, honest, and compelling as the music itself. Wispelwey has a rich, ringing tone that can ride over orchestral tutti fortes yet still sound fully present in intimate pianissimos. He also has an elegant technique that can accomplish anything the work asks without calling undue attention to itself. These qualities allow him to lean into the work's powerful drama and aching lyricism without dividing his attention. The commanding Fischer leads the rich-toned Budapest Festival Orchestra in an accompaniment as musically interesting and dramatically significant as the solo part.
Walton's concerto was commissioned by Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, whose reputation as a performer was such that he inspired works by no less than Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Hindemith. Though the concerto was not very well received by critics following its first performance, it is probably the result of Walton's singular aesthetic sensibility and place- perceived as an old-fashioned Romanticism in the post-war period. Wispelwey's performance effortlessly shifts through the strong rhythmic passages and the moments of serenity called for by Walton's composition. The recording also includes three compositions for solo cello: Bloch's Suite no. 1, Ligeti's Sonata for solo cello, and Walton's Passacaglia. The CD is book-ended with Britten's Ciaccona (Cello suite no. 2, op.80) which will clearly establish why Wispelwey is considered one of the foremost Britten interpreters.
OK, are you ready for something completely different? From someone who has already recorded two complete sets of Bach's six suites for solo cello, BWV 1007-1012, no less? Where to begin? Dutch historical-performance specialist Pieter Wispelwey disregards the long performance tradition associated with these six suites, which seem like cousins to Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin but are actually quite different in character (there are no sonatas, for one thing). Even players of the Baroque cello sometimes seem to have Pablo Casals' magisterial recordings in their heads, but Casals is not in the building at all for these readings. They seem to rest on three principles.
…Wispelwey plays an English instrument by Barak Norman (1710) whose bright, immediate timbre is a welcome asset in these sonatas. An involving issue, enhanced by discreetly balanced and mercifully uncoloured recorded sound.
"Tatsache ist, da Pieter Wispelwey zu allererst ganz vorzglich und spannend, souvern und aufrägened Cello spielen kann. Er tut es mit dem jeweils adquaten historischen Empfinden (…) (…) Ich empfehle jede der zehn mir vorliegenden Einspielungen gerade deshalb, weil jede einzelne ihre ganz spezifische Aura besitz, weil also Wispelwey nie gleich Wispelwey ist. (…)"
Pieter Wispelwey and his gut-string cello partner for a second time with Paolo Giacometti in a programme of Chopin and Mendelssohn. But there is a another great musical figure on this disc – the cellist and composer Karl Davidoff, who studied with Moscheles and Mendelssohn’s violinist and composer friend Ferdinand David. Davidoff’s brilliant arrangements of the Chopin Waltzes Op. 64 form a sparkling interlude between Mendelssohn’s brilliant 2nd sonata, and Chopin’s late and great sonata for cello and piano.
The compositions on this CD encompass an entire century; all of them are French. Of course, they do not represent the entire range of a century of French cello music, but on the other hand they are all completely un-German! I thought that it would be a good idea to offer the listener of the late 1990s a sort of double upbeat for the masterly Chopin Sonata, in this way arriving at the 1840s by means of two successive steps. The Poulenc Sonata, although dating from 1948, is more a reflection of the Paris of the 1920s anti-aesthetic decadence and coolly presented cabaret-style sentiment. The work is remarkable for its refined surrealism, tinged with an intriguing hint of Catholic irony and seduction in the slow movement, and the moments in the last movement where the energy, for the first time, acquires a sarcastic tint, succeeded by an even more macabre quality which evokes Prokofiev…..
- Pieter Wispelwey