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Lutosławski • R Schumann • Tchaikovsky: Cello Concertos

Andrzej Bauer (cello); Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jacek Kaspszyk (NIFC)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Lutosławski • R Schumann • Tchaikovsky
Lutosławski: Cello Concerto; R Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129; Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Andrzej Bauer (cello); Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jacek Kaspszyk
Frederick Chopin Institute NIFCCD 072   66:34 mins


Three contrasting cello concertos cast fresh light on each other in performances by Polish cellist Andrzej Bauer, whose cultivated, singing tone is a constant virtue. He employs it first to unshowy effect in Schumann’s non-virtuosic (though still highly challenging) Cello Concerto in A minor, an enigmatic late work full of poetry. With the conductor Jacek Kaspszyk and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, he captures a quintessentially Schumannesque mood of pensive intimacy.

Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme comes next, and with it a brightening shift into A major, the key often associated with seduction in the operas of Tchaikovsky’s musical god, Mozart. Bauer and the Katowice forces tease the music out lovingly, the soloist presenting the theme itself with an unmistakable smile. They build the performance with warmth, delicacy and exuberance.

While the all-Polish team might in any case be expected to supply authority in Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, it’s revealing to hear this modernist masterpiece approached from the perspective of concerto tradition. Less formally experimental than much that Lutosławski had been writing when he was commissioned for Mstislav Rostropovich in 1970, it is a virtuoso work putting the soloist and orchestra in dialogue – confrontation too, which led Rostropovich to find (and Lutosławski to deny) political analogies. From the skittish opening solo, Bauer has made the concerto very much his own, and conductor and orchestra match him in a riveting and vividly recorded performance.

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John Allison