Schumann: Cello Concerto & Works for Cello and Solo Piano

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann: Cello Concerto & Works for Cello and Solo Piano
WORKS: Cello Concerto (arr. Lilienthal); Fünf Stücke im Volkston; Romances; Fantasiestücke; Adagio and Allegro in A flat; Mondnacht; Frühlingsnacht (arr. John York)
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello); John York (piano); Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim/ Nilkas Willén

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This is not the Schumann Cello Concerto that we know and love, but an arrangement for soloist and string orchestra made by the Swiss composer Arthur Lilienthal. Apparently Schumann fully intended to write a version for strings, but failed to deliver it. Raphael Wallfisch remains convinced that such a scoring would have been beneficial to the work, offering greater clarity and more possibilities for the soloist to engage in intimate dialogue with the orchestra. I beg to differ.

Schumann’s orchestration may be problematic, but a skilled conductor can bring the requisite lightness through deft balancing of textures. Removing the wind parts actually reduces the range of colours at Schumann’s disposal and does a great disservice to the interaction between soloist and orchestra by making some passages sound rather mundane.

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I’m sorry to be so hard on this arrangement, particularly as Wallfisch plays the solo part with his customary eloquence and intensity of expression. Fortunately, the rest of the programme proves less controversial, even though only the Fünf Stücke im Volkston was originally conceived for cello and piano. Here Wallfisch delivers warm playing but perhaps misses the last ounce of exuberance in some of the more extrovert pieces. As always, John York follows the contours of Wallfisch’s melodic line with remarkable unanimity of ensemble. Erik Levi