Saint-Saëns • Schumann • Tchaikovsky

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Saint-Saens; Schumann; Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Saint-Saëns • Schumann • Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor; Schumann Cello Concerto in A minor; Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme
PERFORMER: Antonio Meneses (cello); Royal Northern Sinfonia / Claudio Cruz
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2373

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Antonio Meneses delivers technically immaculate and warmly expressive playing throughout these three well-established 19th-century repertoire works. In the first movement of the Schumann Concerto he adopts an almost ideal tempo, allowing sufficient time for the long lyrical melodic lines to breathe but never disrupting the natural flow of the musical argument. There’s a beautiful lyrical poise to the slow movement which contrasts most effectively with the lively and capricious articulation in the Finale. 

Meneses’s account of Saint-Saëns’s First Concerto, like the Schumann in A minor, is no less enjoyable, particularly the central Allegretto con moto which has wonderful elegance and repose. He also brings all the necessary dramatic urgency to the outer sections of the work, where the bravura of his running semiquaver passages and octaves is particularly impressive. 

Predictably, the even more demanding technical hurdles of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations are dispatched with brilliance. Although Meneses could perhaps afford to be a bit more unbuttoned in the playful humour of Variation 7, there’s much charm in the arabesques of Variation 1, and the quiet introspection of Variations 3 and 6 is poetically projected.

All in all, these are beautifully recorded and very fine performances, perhaps at times lacking a certain spark of individuality, but benefiting enormously from the excellent playing of the Royal Northern Sinfonia conducted by Claudio Cruz. In so many other concerto recordings, the orchestral parts can sound routine, but Cruz brings welcome transparency to Schumann’s rich textures, and the solo woodwind playing in both the Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky is delightful and strongly characterised.

Erik Levi

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