Haydn: Cello Concerto in C, Hob VIIb:1; Cello Concerto in D, Hob VIIb:2

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Cello Concerto in C, Hob VIIb:1; Cello Concerto in D, Hob VIIb:2
PERFORMER: Jian Wang (cello); Gulbenkian Orchestra/Muhai Tang
CATALOGUE NO: 463 180-2
The catalogue is now groaning with recordings of the Haydn cello concertos embracing every conceivable interpretative standpoint, from the highly subjective, Romanticised readings of Rostropovich and Du Pré to bracing period-instrument versions from the likes of Christophe Coin and Pieter Wispelwey. Lying somewhere in the middle are vital, naturally expressive performances from Truls Mørk and Steven Isserlis, both high on any shortlist of recommendable versions. Jian Wang, the soloist on this new disc, confirms the promise of his chamber music recordings with playing that is both fiery and eloquent. His tone is rich and alluring, though never over-opulent, his articulation nimble and varied, his phrasing invariably thoughtful. He despatches the devilish bravura writing in the finale of the C major with wit and panache, and brings subtle new shadings and nuances to the recapitulations of the opening movements. If both Adagios are dangerously – and anachronistically – slow and soulful, Wang compels with the intense ruminative inwardness of his playing – listen, for instance, to his rarefied pianissimo at the start of the recapitulation in the C major. A pity, then, that the accompaniments are no more than decent routine. Both the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (for Mørk) and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (for Isserlis) play with an airiness and rhythmic point that make the Gulbenkian Orchestra, with its four-square phrasing and tendency to lean on strong beats, sound pretty earthbound by comparison. Wang’s eloquence and sensitivity certainly demand to be heard. But my vote in these concertos still goes to Mørk (on Virgin) and Isserlis, whose RCA disc also throws in Haydn’s delightfully inventive late Sinfonia concertante. Richard Wigmore