Dvorák • Schumann

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Schumann
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorak • Schumann: Cello Concertos
WORKS: Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B minor; Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor; Casals: El Cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds)
PERFORMER: Pablo Ferrández (cello); Stuttgart Philharmonic/Radoslaw Szulc
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX4127

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Cellist Pablo Ferrández’s rather contorted pose on the cover of this disc didn’t inspire confidence. Happily, such window-dressing doesn’t reflect his performances, which are ardent, tonally penetrating and skilfully structured. Ferrández is unfailingly elegant in the Schumann Cello Concerto, and draws the orchestral soloists into a profoundly inward space in the Langsam, followed by a delightfully light-footed finale.

The clarinet nearly always sounds sharp at the beginning of Dvoπák’s Concerto, one of those odd trompe l’oreille, perhaps, but it results in a sour start, even to this lusty reading by the Stuttgart Philharmonic. In between there’s much to enjoy in Ferrández’s heroic approach, his rhetoric as convincing in the Allegro as his lyricism in the Adagio.

But his playing tightens in a hard-driven fast movement, the sound and fury from the orchestra’s bass forcing some heavy accents and stabbing upbeats in his bid to cut through. Tempo relationships are fairly extreme: the Andante section is luminously realised but puts at least a minute on the time on this recording as compared with many others, making it feel rather fragmented. Listening to Miklós Perényi’s warmly spirited reading with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Iván Fischer (Hungaroton) one is reminded how much more organic and unaffected the Concerto can be. And this coda lacks that profound sunset calm that saturates the very finest performances.

Surprisingly, the last item, Casals’s El cant dels ocells, is the most revealing of Ferrández’s individual voice, and just what he is capable of in terms of sound, line, and dramatisation. A gem on this promising debut disc.

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Helen Wallace