Cello Concertos: Dvorák • Schumann
Schumann marks the first movement of his Cello Concerto to be played ‘Nicht zu Schnell’, a tempo designation that Jamie Walton follows pretty much to the letter in this very intimate chamber-like account. At climactic points, the music perhaps requires more forward momentum to sustain the tension, though Walton’s avoidance of excessive vibrato and his generally straightforward approach to phrasing has an appealing freshness. Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia are very discreet accompanists, but the rather cloudy recording does few favours for Schumann’s orchestration, obfuscating for example the violin’s ascending scales in the tutti passages. This problem resurfaces in the finale where both soloist and orchestra could be even more fleet of foot.
There are balance issues, too, in the Dvoπák Concerto, with the trumpets pretty well obliterating the violins at the all-important fortissimo restatement of the second theme three-quarters of the way through the first movement, and some less than pristine string playing in the opening tutti. But once again Walton delivers a technically impeccable and sometimes eloquent account of the solo part. He is particularly admirable in the second half of the Finale, a section where so many other soloists tend to linger too long over the more nostalgic passages thereby wreaking havoc with the composer’s carefully constructed musical narrative.
Nonetheless, despite the fine quality of the solo playing, and the added bonus of Walton’s beautifully sensitive interpretation of Silent Woods, I found these performances a little earth-bound and wonder whether more focused engineering would have given them more impact.