WORKS: Cello Concerto; Viola Concerto; Schelomo
PERFORMER: Yo-Yo Ma (cello, alto violin)Baltimore SO/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: SK 57961 DDD
As the title implies, the obvious connection between these three assorted concertos is New York, where Stephen Albert was born in 1941, Bartók was exiled to in 1941 and Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo had its premiere. But in musical terms, too, the pieces have a kinship, for all work within languages that may loosely be described as neo-Romantic, though the ‘neo’ is almost superfluous where Schelomo is concerned. Ma plays all three works quite wonderfully and the Baltimore Symphony under Zinman gives him weighty and refined support.
Tibor Serly’s completion of the Bartók Viola Concerto is not performed in the transcription for cello also prepared by Serly, but at the original viola pitch on an ‘alto violin’, a viola-sized instrument fitted with a long spike and played like a cello. The sound is undeniably viola-like, and only Ma’s superbly flexible phrasing and expressive range suggests cello-style bowing. Albert’s Cello Concerto is the real novelty here, completed in 1990 just two years before the composer died in a car accident. It is a beautifully wrought, coherent work, with some striking moments of dark introspection and a tragic cast that is truly impressive. Andrew Clements