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Transmission: Edgar Moreau

Edgar Moreau (cello); Lucerne Symphony Orchestra/Michael Sanderling (Erato)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Bloch: From Jewish Life; Schelomo; Bruch: Kol Nidrei; Korngold: Cello Concerto; Ravel: Deux mélodies hébraïques
Edgar Moreau (cello); Lucerne Symphony Orchestra/Michael Sanderling
Erato 9029510510   65:53 mins


French cellist Edgar Moreau explores his Jewish roots in a ravishing sequence by Jewish composers drawing on devotional traditions (Bloch), or not (Korngold), and by non-Jewish composers (Bruch, Ravel) for whom Hebraic music was a creative resource. I’ll never forget my first encounter with Bloch’s From Jewish Life as a child, performed by Raphael Wallfisch (whose Chandos recording I still treasure): the cello erupted out of bare, chiming piano chords like a searing flame. Since then they have become familiar, but they should always startle with their piercing directness. In the orchestral versions, that simplicity is harder to find. Surrounded by a cloud of harmony, Moreau performs them with great sensitivity, but misses their taut urgency. ‘Supplication’ is almost Romantic, and ‘Jewish Song’ mournful. By contrast, he captures well the fragile mystery in Ravel’s haunting Mélodies hébraïques.

He delivers Bloch’s epic Schelomo with magnificent command, tracing its ark from lamentation to shrill anger back to resignation. Michael Sanderling and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra bring out the myriad colours in Bloch’s evocation of Solomon (cello) and his people (orchestra). Beside Moreau’s spacious reading, older recordings are notably more dynamic (Rostropovich, Piatigorsky), and Isserlis’s narrative flair is hard to beat). But Moreau finds fluency and silken sophistication in Bruch’s more distilled Kol Nidrei.

Korngold’s rollicking Cello Concerto must be unique in having been created for a film about two warring musicians, Irving Rapper’s Deception (1946). It’s small but perfectly proportioned, a riot of orchestral colour, and a masterclass in eking music out of scraps from the cutting-room floor.

Helen Wallace

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