Dvor‡k, Brahms

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Dvorak
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Double Concerto
PERFORMER: Pierre Fournier (cello), Zino Francescatti (violin); BBC SO/Colin Davis, Malcolm Sargent
Neither of these historic performances could be proposed as a standard recommendation, though both have their own fascinations. Recorded in Edinburgh in 1955, the Brahms Concerto performance is decidedly mixed. The basic tempo of the first movement is almost unbearably ponderous and at times indecisive, with the secondary thematic material almost coming to a halt. There is no denying the beauty of some of the solo playing, in particular in the slow movement, and both players capture the whimsical side of the finale superbly. But coupled with some hazy orchestral playing and the rather cavernous mid-Fifties recording, this performance, though undoubtedly of documentary value, is certainly not a sound recommendation in the manner of Stern, Ma and Abbado. Pierre Fournier’s performance of the Dvorák Cello Concerto with Colin Davis is quite a different matter. Davis is excellent in moulding the tensions in the first movement and Fournier’s playing throughout is superbly expressive, marred only slightly by some constricted tone in the upper register near the start of the finale. While the 1973 recording is vastly superior to that of the Brahms, there is a slight tendency for the soloist to disappear behind woodwind detail in parts of the finale. Though well worth hearing, this live performance is not in the same league as Fournier’s classic recording with George Szell and the Berlin Philharmonic. Jan Smaczny