Cello Concerto, Op. 43; Fantasy, Op. 52; Concertino, Op. 43bis
Raphael Wallfisch (cello); Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra/Łukasz Borowicz
CPO 555 234-2 67.02 mins
Mieczysław Weinberg’s Cello Concerto, initially championed by Rostropovich in the late 1950s, has enjoyed much more widespread advocacy both on disc and in the concert hall in recent years. Raphael Wallfisch’s performance, supported by the excellent Norwegian Orchestra under Łukasz Borowicz, is eloquent and impassioned, contrasting lyrical beauty of tone in the reflective sections of the work with brilliantly incisive fingerwork in the more virtuosic faster movements. However, I find the rival version from Nicolas Altstaedt and Deutsches Symphonie Orchester conducted by Michał Nesterowicz on Channel Classics even more compelling, offering a greater variety of nuance in the heavy despairing tread of the opening slow movement and furnishing the obsessive Polish dance rhythms of the third movement with more ferocity and an increased sense of irony.
Wallfisch’s trump card is that his release places the Concerto in the context of Weinberg’s other music for cello and orchestra, whereas Altstaedt opts for the much more familiar repertory in the shape of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. Still, the musical rewards of Wallfisch’s couplings are no less worthwhile even if the Concertino for Cello and Strings is effectively an early slimmed down version of the Concerto. Yet the real discovery is the Fantasy which boasts a gorgeously haunting slow section framing an up-beat Allegro that ingeniously combines Polish folk-rhythms with the melodic inflections of Klezmer. Erik Levi