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Bridge • Elgar: Cello Concerto etc

Gabriel Schwabe (cello); ORF Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Christopher Ward (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Bridge • Elgar
Elgar: Cello Concerto; Bridge: Oration
Gabriel Schwabe (cello); ORF Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Christopher Ward
Naxos 8.574320   56:06 mins


It’s 30 years since Naxos released Maria Kliegel’s recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and the label’s new version is very different. Played by the  German cellist Gabriel Schwabe, it lops a full four minutes off Kliegel’s spacious interpretation, and is an altogether tauter, more urgent proposition.

Precisely because Schwabe eschews the kind of lingering nostalgia which can easily turn Elgar’s masterpiece sentimental, his is one of the most existentially riveting interpretations on disc. The Scherzo movement is brilliantly nuanced, with filigree technical detail, the slow movement deeply felt without dragging.

Schwabe’s tone is sinewy, his tuning consistently excellent, and conductor Christopher Ward draws sharply proactive playing from the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. The recording is quite closely balanced, with particularly meaty bass responses, allowing close inspection of Elgar’s masterly orchestration. In short, Schwabe’s performance is a must for any follower of Elgar’s music on record.

Frank Bridge’s Oration for cello and orchestra is a bold coupling. The performance is again excellent, but the piece itself too often seems tryingly heavy-handed compared to Elgar’s economy of gesture. Certainly Schwabe’s interpretation of the Elgar repays repeated listening.

Terry Blain

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