Dvorak, Saint-Saens: Cello Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Saint-Saens
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Jacqueline du Pré (cello); Swedish RSO/Sergiu Celibidache, Philadelphia Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85340-2 ADD Reissue (1967, 1971)

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The sheer vitality of Jacqueline du Pré’s music-making might seem an odd harness-mate for Sergiu Celibidache’s preoccupation with meticulously magical orchestral textures. As it turns out, their collaboration achieves an expansive, bardic vision of the Concerto beside which du Pré’s studio account with Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony sounds forcedly urgent.

The cellist’s playing under Celibidache can be worrisomely vehement in extroverted moments, but in general she responds luxuriantly to the broad but eventful expanses Celibidache conjures. The classic Rostropovich/Karajan recording is a more comprehensively realised achievement, but du Pré and Celibidache are consistently and insightfully engaged with this evocative work.

Du Pré’s disc begins with the blistering live account of Saint-Saëns’s A minor Concerto first released in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Centennial Collection last year, but Teldec’s source material is far superior in presence and depth of perspective. Truls Mørk’s tone is a slender, elegant tenor to du Pré’s huskier, more commanding baritone, and his technical finish often eclipses that of both du Pré and Rostropovich.

He is at his considerable best in music that thrives on crystalline delicacy and the eloquence of understatement, such as Haydn’s concertos, of which he has made a remarkable recording. Unfortunately, Dvorák’s Concerto has few such moments – or, rather, it demands that inwardness be balanced by committed dramatic utterance, a realm in which Mørk is less authoritative.

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His account of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, although attractively tasteful, is nevertheless weak tea beside the verve and style offered by Rostropovich and Karajan. David Breckbill