Dvor‡k Foster

COMPOSERS: Dvorák Foster
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák Foster
WORKS: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104; Lasst mich allein; Zigeunerlieder
PERFORMER: Jan Vogler (cello), Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo-soprano), Helmut Deutsch (piano); New York Philharmonic/ David Robertson
CATALOGUE NO: 82876737162
The true nature of the emotional background to Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto is unlikely ever to be unravelled. While there are any numbers of guns in its vicinity, none are really smoking. We know, for example, that the first movement’s magnificent second theme made the composer ‘tremble’ because he told us. The quotation of the song ‘Leave me alone’ in the slow movement may well be connected with the illness of Dvo?ák’s sister-in-law, but the authority for assuming he was once in love with her is highly circumstantial; the supremely affecting return of the theme at the end of the finale may have been prompted by her death, but then again, had Dvo?ák not extended the finale, the conclusion of the Concerto would have been damagingly abrupt.

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In a pair of interviews, the soloist Jan Vogler and the musicologist Mike Beckerman outline this background, to their credit acknowledging the evanescent nature of the evidence. But what matters is the performance and this is very fine. While not a classic like Fournier’s, the reading is passionately engaged, well recorded and never tips into sentimentality, though, as is often the case today, the central section of the first movement tends to drag. The makeweights include vocal and cello versions of ‘Leave me alone’, Dvo?ák’s Gypsy songs and two songs by Stephen Foster whose music he knew well. Quite what these add I leave to the listener; certainly the performance of the Concerto is one of the most creditable of recent years. Jan Smaczny