Goldschmidt Cello Concerto; Reizenstein Cello Concerto in G
Raphael Wallfisch (cello); Konzerthausorchester Berlin/Nicholas Milton
CPO 555 109-2 56:06 mins
Raphael Wallfisch’s series of recordings of mid-20th century cello concertos by Jewish composers in exile, Voices in the Wilderness, highlights significant works by what still remains, tragically, a lost generation. Some have found wider rehabilitation, like Korngold’s; others, like these two, have not. Franz Reizenstein and Berthold Goldschmidt were able to escape Nazi Germany and settle in Britain, but struggled to keep their art alive – especially Goldschmidt who, after much frustration in an unwelcoming climate, eventually succumbed to 25 years of musical silence. Franz Reizenstein, 22 when he came to the UK, was better able to study and adjust, but it tells us much about his artistic fate that this massive cello concerto, written in 1936, revised twice and premiered in 1951 by William Pleeth, has been neglected for decades.
Its musical language calls to mind variously Holst’s ‘Mars’ from The Planets, Hindemith’s Trauermusik and more: a thick-textured, anguished work with driving rhythms and a cello part that pushes the soloist to high intensity in the instrument’s stratospheres. The Goldschmidt Concerto is a terser, more concentrated work – which does it no harm – and its strength of character is if anything greater still, notable for tense atmospheres and sardonic, Mahlerian snarling, especially in the finale, a large-footed tarantella. Raphael Wallfisch navigates both concertos with a hefty, penetrating sound, unfailing intellect and oak-strong conviction. The Berlin Konzerthausorchester under Nicholas Milton prove heroic partners, though the somewhat dry recorded sound does perhaps too little to add bloom to these ambitious and challenging works.