Sol Gabetta performs Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor and Martinů’s Cello Concerto No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Elgar,Martinu
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Elgar * Martinů
WORKS: Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor; Martinů: Cello Concerto No. 1*
PERFORMER: Sol Gabetta (cello); Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle, Krzysztof Urbanski*
CATALOGUE NO: Sony 88985350792

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Sol Gabetta is likely to be more often recorded in the Elgar Cello Concerto than the player with whom it’s become indissolubly associated, Jacqueline du Pré. Which is no bad thing: Gabetta is not the sort of artist to carve an interpretation in stone, marbled as this performance undoubtedly is. But if fame allows her to bring attention to masterpieces in the shade like Martinů’s First Concerto, then so much the better.

These two live Berlin recordings have very different conductors. I wonder if the sense of objectivity in Gabetta’s Elgar here – different, I think, from her first recording and the more febrile Prom conducted by Sakari Oramo – takes its lead from the slightly self-conscious sculpting of Rattle. He’s to be praised, at least, for highlighting the extreme subtlety of Elgar’s spare scoring; the wind solos and ensembles have never sounded more beautiful. The wistful 9/8 melody doesn’t quite swim, but the payoffs for sombre introspection come quickly, and Gabetta has her own ideas about dynamics, all of which are convincing. Vitally, the Adagio heart of the work is as personal and spellbinding as any I’ve heard, the portamento sparingly applied to avoid an excess of sentimentality.

Martinů’s great work, significantly revised since its 1931 premiere, has a different kind of elusiveness; as always with this composer, the syncopated lilt may be familiar but the directions taken are always unpredictable. Gabetta and Krzystof Urbanski hit the painful heights of a profound slow movement. More Martinů concertos and chamber works from this cellist, please.

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David Nice