Christian Poltéra performs cello concertos by Dvorák and Martinu

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COMPOSERS: Antonín Dvorák; Bohuslav Martinu
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák • Martinu
WORKS: Dvorák: Cello Concerto; Martinu Cello Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Christian Poltéra (cello); Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: BIS BIS-2157 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Cellist Christian Poltéra and conductor Thomas Dausgaard give Dvoπák’s Cello Concerto a lusty warmth and spontaneity in Berlin’s Jesus-Christus Kirche. The acoustic is resonant but detailed, and the atmosphere crackling with vitality. The outer movements are swift without ever sounding snatched, while characterful horn and wind solos grace the effortlessly-sung slow movement. There are lovely moments in the finale, an especially well-balanced duet with violin and solo cello, which leads into cello passages of violinistic brightness and agility. Poltéra is convincing, though Dausgaard doesn’t quite create the magical sunset needed at the work’s close.

But what sets this recording apart is this reading of Martin∞’s Cello Concerto No. 1, a hugely appealing work far too rarely performed. Czech folk dance meets the Jazz Age in its bristling opening, commanding trumpets kick-starting a burst of syncopated, outdoorsy exuberance. Originally conceived as a concerto grosso in 1930, the work went through many revisions until it turned into this satisfying fully-orchestrated concerto in 1955.

The Andante moderato has that austerely direct character special to Martin∞ with Moravian folk laments at its core. Poltéra sustains its cantilenas with a glowing intensity that builds towards a monumental and profoundly moving cadenza. The work ends in a blaze of moto perpetuo vivacity, with some arch interludes to which Poltéra and Dausgaard lend the right degree of nonchalant suavity. Some harsh fast passagework aside, this reading stands beside the best.

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Helen Wallace