COMPOSERS: Victor Herbert
ALBUM TITLE: Herbert
WORKS: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Irish Rhapsody
PERFORMER: Mark Kosower (cello); Ulster Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.573517
Some eminent cellists – Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell, Gautier Capuçon – have taken Herbert’s Second Cello Concerto under their wing, although it rarely features on concert programmes. Its best music comes in the central Andante, where the soloist’s pleasing cantilena foreshadows Herbert’s later immersion in the tune-spinning realm of operetta (he eventually wrote over 40). Mark Kosower wisely doesn’t overdo the sugar, nor does he overdo the gravitas in the E minor opening movement, keeping rhythms springy and phrasing elegantly elastic.
Though it’s a lesser-known work, newcomers may well find the earlier, D major Concerto more purely entertaining. The unassuming charm of the opening Allegro con spirito is infectiously caught in Kosower’s playing, which has a sunny, carefree quality difficult to capture in a recording studio. He brings a Gallic restraint and delicacy to the sweet meanderings of the middle movement, lending dignity to melodic material which could easily turn sentimental.
The nimble, airy accompaniments curated by JoAnn Falletta are perfectly matched to Kosower’s judiciously sentient interpretations, and both she and the excellent Ulster Orchestra have fun with the hearty pot-pourri of traditional tunes stitched together by Herbert (who was born in Dublin) in the Irish Rhapsody.