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Cello Concerto Collection Featuring Arto Noras (Cello) SHOSTAKOVICH, STRAUSS, ELGAR , DVORÁK, BARTÓK, SAINT SAËNS, LALO &  DUTILLEUX Orchestras and conductors as indicated  FINLANDIA

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Cello Concerto Collection Featuring Arto Noras (Cello) Finlandia 3984-26836-2

A box set of 3 CDs comprising:-

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No.1 in E flat major
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No.2 in G major

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Romance in F for Cello and Orchestra

Norwegian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ari Rasilainen
FINLANDIA 3984-21441-2 [73:53]

Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Cello Concerto in E minor

Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto

Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945) With Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Rhapsody No.1
(originally for violin and orchestra)

Conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste (Elgar and Bartók); and Sakari Oramo (Dvorak)

FINLANDIA 3984 23394-2 [77:57]

Camille SAINT SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor

Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Cello Concerto in D minor

Henri DUTILLEUX (1916-)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (Tout un monde lointain)

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste

FINLANDIA 3984-23395-2 [74:30]

One is always a bit suspicious of bulk buying collections of concertos; there is always a doubt of consistency of quality through the set no matter how attractive the investment might appear. I can dispel these fears.

Art Noras (b. 1942) is the best-known Finnish cellist and has won numerous prizes for his technically assured playing and his expressive readings. Nearly all his recordings are found on the Finlandia label hence this collection.

The Elgar and Dvorák Concertos and the Bartók Rhapsody

Noras's recording of the Elgar Concerto joins the growing number of impressive recordings now mounting up by non-British artists. This partnership with Saraste results in a very appealing reading that strikes a happy balance between the mellow and the passionately intense. Saraste is unafraid to go out for the bombast of the fourth movement before returning the music smoothly and elegantly into regret, tinged with tragedy, so assisting Noras to eloquently breathe just the right amount of pathos into the closing pages.

I have heard more polished performances of Dvorák's popular Concerto but this one has a fresh spontaneity about it. How lovingly Noras shapes the lovely romantic tune at the heart of the opening movement and the equally beautiful poignant melody of the Adagio. Oramo gives a strongly propelled accompaniment with plenty of excitement and sensitivity as appropriate. The very colourful Bartòk Rhapsody No. 1 (originally composed for violin and orchestra) has two movements based on exotic and strongly rhythmic folk material. Noras and Saraste deliver very appealing readings of music that deserves far wider recognition.

The Saint-Saëns; Lalo and Duttilleux works

The Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto has been recorded many times and frankly there are more polished versions. Noras affects a pleasing performance but Saraste's accompaniment is a little coarse-grained and the finale really too hurried. The lovely central minuet is appealing enough though. The Lalo Concerto, which has a challenging part and a dominant role for the soloist, fares better. This reading nicely balances the heroic bombast with the sweetly romantic and the central Intermezzo is beguiling. Noras's playing is warmly lyrical and technically secure.

But it is Duttilleux's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra - Tout un monde lointain that is the really interesting work on this disc. Duttilleux's very individual style is endlessly fascinating and strangely addictive; there is always something to interest the ear - the kaleidoscopic nature of its constantly shifting, scintillating patterns, weird glissandos, pointilliste colourings etc. The title of the work, and of its five movements, are taken from verse and prose of Baudelaire, from the metaphysical world of the decadents. The opening 'Enigme' (Enigma) is sparkling and scherzo-like, 'Regard' (Gaze) is, in contrast, introspective, inhabiting a strange, remote soundscape where "poison…flows from your eyes…" Meditative, too is 'Mirroirs' (Mirrors) - but the atmosphere is somewhat warmer. 'Houles' (Surges) is a vivid seascape with the wind whipping the crests of the waves. 'Hymn' gathers together the preceding material. A convincing performance.

Shostakovich Cello Concertos Nos. 1 and 2. Richard Strauss - Romanze.

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his popular First Cello Concerto for Rostropovich in 1959. The soloist occupies centre stage and is accompanied by a relatively small orchestra with double woodwind and no brass except for one horn. The opening movement is harsh and restless. Shostakovich suggested that it was a "scherzo-like march." The second, slow movement is meditative and poignant - a personal reflection that would surely have raised eyebrows if it had been composed earlier? The third movement is entirely given over to the cadenza with the soloist musing intensely over material already stated while the finale has rather ponderous processional music that seems to have a rather exotic oriental character and there are many timpani flourishes. Shostakovich's Second Cello Concerto (1966) is understandably not as popular as his First, for it is more subdued even reclusive but having said that it has an inner glow and its quiet strength becomes more apparent on repeated listenings. The solo part is not so flamboyant and the orchestral forces are quite modest - although there is no lack of colour or interesting effects. The long opening slow movement is dominated by expansive melodies broken up by sometimes quite grotesque material. The two remaining movements are both marked Allegretto the first of which is humorous and bitingly ironic with some sardonic cello glissandi. The finale opens with horn fanfares that begin imposingly before they are quickly satirised. The Cello enters and continues the satirical statement over a shaking percussive instrumentation that puts one in mind of an angry rattlesnake. The movement then turns tranquil and nocturne-like and the movement proceeds to include music in many moods from the jerkingly processional, through rather rustic dance figures to a danse macabre culmination before an enigmatic concluding sequence coloured by imaginative percussion. Noras is expressively poetic especially in the lovely Largo of the Second Concerto and Rasilainen's accompaniment is colourfully articulate in both concertos.

Richard Strauss's Romanza is an early work (1883 - some five years before Don Juan) and it clearly shows the influence of Brahms, Schumann and Mendelssohn. At this time Strauss was heeding his father's admonition to ignore Wagner who Strauss Snr. passionately disliked! It is a gorgeously melodic work and deserves to be better known. It was actually lost for many years and did not surface again until 1986.

All in all, this is a box set that can be recommended - it might make an ideal Christmas present for somebody beginning to explore the world of music


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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