Dvořák: Cello Concerto; Waldesruhe, etc

Kian Soltani (cello); Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim (DG)

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CD_4836090_Dvorak

Dvořák
Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104; Waldesruhe, Op. 68 No. 5; Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op. 55 No. 4; Four Songs, Op. 82 – ‘Leave Me Alone’; Goin’ Home
Kian Soltani (cello); Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim
DG 483 6090   61:05 mins

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Swiss-born Iranian cellist Kian Soltani recounts in his notes how he declined an invitation from the West-Eastern Divan (where he has been principal cellist) because he had an imminent performance of the Dvořák Cello Concerto and needed to focus. Barenboim was having none of it, told him to bring the score along and devoted his spare hours to preparing it with him.

It’s a touching story of master and apprentice, with a happy ending – this live collaboration with the Staatskapelle Berlin. I’ve been impressed in the past by the restraint of Soltani’s approach. There’s a contained, quietly burning quality to his ‘ex-Boccherini’ Strad sound which draws one in; it’s never splashy or over-projected, though it can feel ungrounded, lacking in a dimension.

So how would he fare with the grand rhetoric of this concerto? In short, to the manner born. He’s an exceptionally free, agile and fluent player, and youthful impetuosity powers the first and third movements, only occasionally marred by a rather hectic vibrato. There’s a sense of real partnership with the orchestra, a lovely chamber-like dialogue, the rounded woodwind and brass timbres of the Berliners providing an ideal foil for his brightly-lit line. Soltani gives himself over completely to the lavish oratory of the concerto’s coda, handled with masterly care by Barenboim.

‘Leave Me Alone’, quoted in the slow movement, is an arrangement by Soltani for solo cello and cello ensemble: it’s captivating, evoking  the tender ache of the Concerto. More guilty pleasures follow with lush arrangements of Allegro moderato and Silent Woods.

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Helen Wallace