Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B minor; Slavonic Dances, Op. 46/5-8

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Cello Concerto in B minor; Slavonic Dances, Op. 46/5-8
PERFORMER: Guido Schiefen (cello); Gran Canaria PO/Adrian Leaper
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 34054 2
In its performing history of over a century something odd has happened to Dvorák’s Cello Concerto – it has lengthened. What separates the approaches of performers like Emanuel Feuermann, who in 1928 dispatched the first movement in hardly more than 12 minutes with no sense of rushing, and the two present recordings, may be attributable to increased knowledge about this work. Letters to friends and family paint a picture of Dvorák in America at work on the concerto homesick for Bohemia, a man profoundly moved by the plight of his sister-in-law commemorating her frailty in the slow movement and her death in the finale. Perhaps mindful of this emotional history, performers have responded by placing increased weight on the Concerto’s more reflective episodes.

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In the case of Kreger’s performance, the central episode of the opening Allegro almost becomes a mini slow movement. Notwithstanding much fine tone, the tendency towards gigantism makes the first movement seem very over-inflated and the recording damagingly favours the soloist at the expense of Dvorák’s abundant, captivating orchestral detail. Guido Schiefen’s reading starts out encouragingly with a determined opening to the first movement, but again tends to get bogged down with overly slow episodes. The recorded balance allows much detail to emerge, but the strings of the Gran Canaria Philharmonic don’t really fill out the major tutti. For a reading of the solo line which remains unmatched, try Feuermann’s vintage performance, and for a recommendation that allows Dvorák’s masterpiece to speak without undue inflation, Fournier’s remains excellent. Jan Smaczny