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Cello Concertos from Northern Germany

Gulrim Choï (cello); Ensemble Diderot (Audax)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Cello Concertos from Northern Germany
Works by CF Abel, Grauel, JW Hertel and Mara
Gulrim Choï (cello); Ensemble Diderot
Audax ADX11200   62:05 mins

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The music on this recording belongs to the epoque of the flute-playing Prussian king, Frederick the Great. Indeed, two of the composers, Ignác František Mara and Markus Heinrich Grauel were cellists in the king’s Berlin orchestra. Carl Friedrich Abel was its leading viola da gambist before he left for London where in the mid 1760s he co-founded with JC Bach the successful Bach-Abel concert series. While the fourth composer here, Johann Wilhelm Hertel had no direct association with either orchestra he was on friendly terms with several of the most prominent Berlin musicians including CPE Bach and Franz Benda, leader of Frederick’s orchestra and Hertel’s violin teacher.

The four concertos offer uninterrupted if undemanding pleasure, and provide a faithful overview of the Berlin style of the time. The Mara and Grauel pieces are world-premiere recordings, but it is the Abel and Hertel works that are of greatest interest. Soloist Gulrim Choï in her accompanying essay draws a parallel in the Hertel concerto with CPE Bach’s north-German Empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style). Perhaps so, but it is a mild ingredient wholly lacking the distinctive, original personality of Bach’s music. The Abel concerto, for which a version for flute also exists, is attractive for its amiable melodic content, and at times striking for its exploration of higher registers in the solo part. Choï is a fluent and sensitive advocate for these rarities and is stylishly supported by the strings of Ensemble Diderot directed by its leader, Johannes Pramsohler.

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Nicholas Anderson