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Victor HERBERT (1859-1924)
Cello Concertos – Operetta Spectacular
Lynn Harrell (cello), Academy of St Martin in the Fields / Neville Marriner
Kingsway Symphony Orchestra/Camarata
rec. 1975-1994
ELOQUENCE 4827305 [66:54 + 43:16]

Lynn Harrell’s recording of Victor Herbert’s concertos and miscellaneous morceaux was taped with Neville Marriner back in 1986, released two years later on 417 672-2, and has been reissued by Decca in the intervening years. The accompanying disc here, the ‘Operetta Spectacular’ presided over by Camarata, has, however, never been reissued on CD by Decca itself.

The Second Concerto is best-known, even if only by repute, for its presumed influence on Dvořák’s own mature Concerto. But the First Concerto has its own abundant charms, whether in the lyric scena of the first movement – Herbert, himself a fine cellist (he recorded on 78s), unashamedly allows the soloist many opportunities for cantilena expression – and for the canny use of harp and winds. The urgent lyric charge of the central movement and the fast bowing and joie de vivre generated in the finale ensure this easy-going but meticulously charted work goes with a swing. Sterner in intent than its earlier sibling, the E minor is also a touch more compact and looks far less to mid-nineteenth century influences. In organisation it’s better balances and it’s thematically more appealing, not least the truly beautiful slow movement. Only the finale, too note-spinning and generating less tension as a result, lets things down somewhat. That is no reflection on Harrell, Marriner or the ASMF. There are five sweetmeats, three of which are transcribed by Sam Dennison. Attractive genre pieces don’t always escape inflation in size but these do, especially Ghazel, a most sensitive songful piece, adeptly performed and well-balanced.

(Salvador) Camarata recorded the ‘Operetta Spectacular’ in July 1975 at Kingsway Hall in London and the LP was released later the same year. Part of that LP cover is reproduced on the front cover of this CD. The ex-trumpeter, orchestrator, arranger and conductor had a raft of best-selling discs behind him by the time he recorded this Herbert album and its combination of big-boned lusciousness and some startlingly ballsy performances add an interesting gloss on what could perhaps be called Big Band Victor. There’s even some Korngoldian verve to the overture to Babes in Toyland whose March of the Toys is sprinkled with overdubbed electronica of some kind, from the sound of things. I don’t know who the Kingsway Symphony Orchestra were at this point – Decca had been using the name since the days of 78s with people like Robert Farnon - but they were probably orchestral pros and session players. It has the kind of bold-as-brass sound of one of Sidney Sax’s string sections. So, prepare for some ripe romanticism in these extrovert readings. The final track comes from Kiri Te Kanawa’s live performance of Art is calling me, from The Enchantress (LSO/Stephen Barlow, 1994), a track culled from her 50th Birthday celebration concert and disc.

This twofer certainly presents the two sides of Herbert’s oeuvre in performance that reflect those elements vividly.

Jonathan Woolf

Cello Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 8 (1885) [26:53]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 30 (1894) [24:22]
Yesterthoughts [3:51]
Pensée Amoureuse (1892) [4:41]
Punchinello [1:55]
Ghazel [3:28]
The Mountain Brook [1:39]
Lynn Harrell (cello)/Academy of St Martin in the Fields/ Neville Marriner
Italian Street Song (from Naughty Marietta) [3:06]
The Streets Of New York [2:19]
Kiss me again (from Mademoiselle Modiste) (1905) [5:44]
Every Day Is Ladies' Day (from The Red Mill) (1906) [2:07]
Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (from Naughty Marietta) (1910) [3:45]
Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life (Johnson Young) [3:45]
Babes in Toyland Overture (1903) [4:56]
Sweethearts / When You're Away (from Sweethearts) (1913) [5:02]
Moonbeams (from Red Mill) (1906) [1:03]
Babes in Toyland [7:24]
March Of The Toys Finale [4:04]
Kingsway Symphony Orchestra/Camarata
Art Is Calling For Me (from The Enchantress) [3:58]
Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano)/London Symphony Orchestra/Stephen Barlow

October 1986, St Barnabas, Woodside Park, London (Cello works); July 1975, Kingsway Hall (Operetta Spectacular) and March 1994, Royal Albert Hall (Art is Calling For Me)

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