Dvorak: Cello Concerto; Symphonic Variations

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Channel
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Symphonic Variations
PERFORMER: Pieter Wispelwey (cello); Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 25807 (hybrid CD/SACD)
The enduring attraction of Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto is due partly to its grand gestures associated with the Romantic concerto, but also to its lyrical intensity, stemming largely from Dvo?ák’s thoughts of his distant homeland as he reached the end of his second stay in the United States; the cathartic end of the finale in particular appears as a last farewell to the sister-in-law with whom he might once have been in love.

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Performances of the Concerto in the last 50 years have tended to focus on the emotional subtext resulting in slower, more reflective playing, particularly in the first movement, than Dvo?ák appears to have intended. Pieter Wispelwey is no exception, but he does bring exceptional qualities to bear in a reading that has a profound sense of drama. He is splendid in the cadenza-like gestures at the entry of the soloist in the first movement and projects a luminous intensity in the more meditative passages. The slow movement is appropriately songlike and the finale builds persuasively toward a superbly moving close.

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If as a whole he does not match Fournier’s wonderfully idiomatic vintage performance on DG, this is a modern reading which stands very high in the catalogue. Iván Fischer accompanies with precision and an unfussy approach to the Concerto’s rhetoric; well recorded and coupled with a splendid performance of the Symphonic Variations, this issue is a winner from many points of view. Jan Smaczny