These scores, with the exception of Cello Concerto No. 1 and
the highly popular score The Swan are rarely heard in the
concert hall, which is a shame given the high quality of craftsmanship.
may be Moserís first recordings made with an orchestra but he
is no stranger to the recording studio having made three separate
Hšnssler Classic discs of cello sonatas: Shostakovich; Weinberg
and Boris Tchaikovsky on CD 93.176 that won an Echo Klassik Award
2007; Brahms; Fuchs and Zemlinsky on CD 93.206 a winner of Echo
Klassik Award 2008 and Brahms; Richard Strauss and Herzogenberg
on CD 93.207.
composed several works for the cello and his Concerto No. 1
is the first and finest of his two concertos. It is rightly
regarded as one of the best loved cello concertos in the repertoire.
The sunny and colourful score is compact in structure and plays
in one continuous movement with three distinct sections. Moser
describes the work: ďFrom a technical point of view, the first
is relatively easy to master, with forceful, rousing Romantic
gestures allowing the soloist and orchestra to shine in equal
portions.Ē Moser provides a dramatic interpretation of the
stormy Allegro non troppo while the attractive main theme
is beautifully played. The yearning Allegretto con moto is
especially movingly performed and the buoyancy of the closing
Allegro section with its dazzling Coda provides
a stunning conclusion to this magnificent score. At times Moserís
playing reminded of the enviable qualities of the Paul Tortelier.
Throughout the score the accompaniment is always elegant and rousing
Cello Concerto No. 2 was composed in 1902, for the Dutch
cellist Joseph Hollmann, some thirty years after the First. The
themes are not acknowledged as having the memorability of its
predecessor and consequently it has been greatly overshadowed
by the initial attractiveness of the earlier score. This notwithstanding,
the D minor Concerto is greatly admired by cellists and provides
the soloist with considerable technical challenges. Cast in four
parts, the score is presented in two large sections. Johannes
Moser finds the work ďÖ more complex in many ways. For instance,
the cellist must manage difficult passages with double stops right
at the beginning. Nor does the composer make it easy for the performer
in terms of expression, since it demands a stylistic balancing
act between a classical understanding of music and a neo-Romantic
gesture; what is more, the form is not so homogenous and as easy
to understand as the first concertoĒ.
the opening† Allegro moderato e maestoso Moser provides
playing of splendour; so comfortingly rich and warm. It is mpressive
how Moser imparts a deep meditative quality to the Andante
sostenuto. The Allegro non troppo is played with a
hectic and restless quality and high forward momentum. Moser is
enthralling in the Cadenza and the spirited Molto allegro
is extrovertly played to bring an exultant conclusion. I noted
that the often densely textured orchestral accompaniment was stunningly
played by the Stuttgart players.
in 1862 the Suite in D minor is in five brief and appealing
movements. The Suite at just under twenty minutes lasts
a similar length to the two cello concertos. Biographer Michael
Steinberg has written that the Suite, ďÖ is generally
regarded as the first work in which an individual and identifiable
Saint-SaŽns voice can be heard.Ē In the D minor Suite Moser
conveys a shadowy mood in the Prelude. I enjoyed the soloistís
emphasis on the dance-like qualities of the Serenade and
I was struck by the breezy effervescence of the Scherzo.
In the fourth movement Romance Moser communicates a languid
feel and the Finale is lively and vivacious.
originally wrote his short Romance in F major,
Op. 36 for cello (or horn) and piano in 1874. The Romance
is presented here in the version for cello and orchestra. Affectionately
handled by Moser this undemanding score with its light and charming
melody has been described as suitable for the Parisian salon.
Rather than the version for cello and piano Moser has chosen
this one for cello and orchestra.
single movement Allegro appassionato, Op. 43 was
composed in 1873 and has become a staple of the cello repertoire.
It seems that the moderate technical challenges presented by
this brief score have made it a popular choice of young cellists
in competitions and recitals. More frequently heard in the version
for cello and piano this arrangement is a lesser heard gem.
Despite the undemanding nature of the Allegro appassionato
Moser exercises the utmost care yet makes this an energetic
and carefree interpretation.
deliberately avoided publishing ĎThe Carnival of the Animalsí.
Realising the sheer charm of the score Saint-SaŽns did not wish
to be remembered only for this work, fearing that his reputation
as a serious composer would be affected. Of the fourteen movements
Saint-SaŽns permitted only the penultimate movement The Swan
to be published in his lifetime. Not surprisingly this attractive
score has achieved great popularity. In this arrangement for cello
and orchestra the music so convincingly evokes a swan gliding
graceful over the still water. With The Swan Moser lets
himself go with unashamedly heart-on-sleeve playing that enchants
and delights from start to finish.
showpiece work the Saint-SaŽns Cello Concerto No. 1 has
been recorded many times over the years. Consequently there are
several excellent versions established in the catalogues by many
of the worldís finest performers, for example: Jacqueline Du Prť
with the Philadelphia Orchestra/Barenboim on EMI; Pierre Fournier
with the Lamoureux Orchestra of Paris/Martinon on DG; Lynn Harrell
and the Cleveland Orchestra/Marriner on Decca; JŠnos Starker with
the London Symphony Orchestra/Dorati on Mercury; Yo Yo Ma with
the French National Orchestra/Maazel on Sony; Mstislav Rostropovich
with the London Philharmonic Orchestra/Giulini on EMI and Paul
Tortelier with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Frťmaux
on EMI. The Cello Concerto No. 2 has fared less well in
the studios and consequently recordings, not to mention sets containing
both concertos, are much harder to find in the catalogues.
the more recent recordings of both the A minor and D
minor I greatly admire the versions from Steven Isserlis,
for his noble expression and firm control, on BMG/RCA Red Seal
(82876-65845-2). Using different orchestras and conductors Isserlis
recorded the Cello Concerto No. 1 in 1992 with the London
Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas and the Concerto
No. 2 in 1999 with NDR Sinfonieorchester under Christoph Eschenbach.
The same version from Isserlis of the A minor is also available
on a separate disc on RCA Victor Red Seal, with a different coupling,
of other Saint-SaŽns scores with cello (09026-61678-2). Another
recent version of the two Cello Concertos that I have enjoyed
for the beautiful playing and considerable assurance is from Jamie
Walton and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Alex Briger on Quartz
(QTZ2039). Although rather eclipsed by the general quality of
the rival versions cellist Maria Kliegel plays both Concertos
with expression and commitment with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta
under Jean-FranÁois Monnard for Naxos (8.553039).
last year I was entranced by the freshness of the sensitive
and characterful artistry of a new recording of the Cello
Concerto No. 1 performed by Sol Gabetta with the MŁnchner
Rundfunkorchester under Ari Rasilainen on BMG/RCA
the evidence of this disc Moserís is a name to watch and his
future success seems guaranteed. Displaying a secure technique
and rich timbre this charismatic artist, in these delightful
interpretations, expertly mixes a generous palette of tone colours.
Particularly impressive is the iron grip that he exercises over
the proceedings. I experienced these bold performances as a
fruitful emotional encounter with Saint-SaŽnsís richly appealing
music. I have never heard the Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart
des SWR under the assured direction of Fabrice Bollon in finer
form. Their sensitive, yet robust accompaniment is of the highest
Hšnssler engineers have provided a warm and clear sound. In the
booklet notes there is an interesting interview with the soloist
but as is often the case a little more information about the actual
works would have been helpful. For example we are not informed
in every case who made the arrangements. Received too late for
one of my Ď2008 Records of the Yearí this Hšnssler disc from Johannes
Moser is the first of my selections for 2009.
Recommended Saint-SaŽns Recordings
Other highly recommendable Saint-SaŽns recordings that
I have come across in recent years are the following:
The acclaimed 1959 recording of the celebrated Symphony No.
3 ĎOrganí from Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony
Orchestra on RCA Red Seal SACD 82876-61387-2 RE1
Stephen Houghís award-winning set of The Complete Works for
Piano and Orchestra from 2000-01 with the CBSO under Sakari
Oramo on Hyperion CDA67331/2
The Violin Concertos Nos.1 & 3; Introduction et
Rondo capriccioso and Havanaise performed by Kyung
Wha Chung with various orchestras and using conductors: Lawrence
Foster and Charles Dutoit. Recorded 1974/80 on Decca 460 008-2
String Quartets No. 1 & 2; Violin Sonatas No. 1
& 2 and Violin pieces by Quatuor Viotti & Olivier
Charlier (violin) & Jean Hubeau (piano). Recorded 1984/87
on Warner Classics Apex 2564 61426-2
Septet; Tarentelle; Bassoon Sonata; Piano
Quartet; Piano Quintet; Oboe Sonata; Clarinet
Sonata & ĎCaprice sur des airs danois et russesí
by members of the Nash Ensemble. Recorded 2004 on Hyperion CDA67431-2
Messe de Requiem, Op.54 and Part Songs by various
soloists, Coro della Radio Svizzera, Lugano & Orchestra della
Svizzera Italiana/Diego Fasolis. Recorded 2001 on Chandos CHAN
Piano Trios No.1 & 2 performed by the Joachim Trio.
Recorded 1993 on Naxos 8.550935.
The Scandinavian label BIS has embarked on a substantial new series
of Saint-SaŽns works. I especially enjoyed their disc of the violin
concertos including other orchestral works from French violinist
and conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow and the Tapiola Sinfonietta
on BIS BIS-CD-860; BIS-CD-1060