Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor; Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor; Suite, Op. 16; The Swan

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Saens
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor; Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor; Suite, Op. 16; The Swan
PERFORMER: Mischa Maisky (cello), Daria Hovora (piano); Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 457 599-2

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The Swedish Wagnerite, poet and nationalist Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942) was a late-Romantic more feared as critic than composer. Contemporaries and compatriots stung by his acid tongue (‘criticism must be ruthless,’ he believed) scorned him as a miniaturist. Yet his five music dramas and as many symphonies show he had the capacity to sustain a large-scale structure as successfully as pen an unforgettable idyll, to argue a learned fugue as refreshingly as indulge an old-time gallantry or occasional fanfare. His imaginatively individual sound-world, neither Sibelian nor Mahlerian, was one of mystic forest murmurs, winter frosts and spring flowers, luscious solos and grand tuttis. In the inevitability of his melody, rhythm and form seems to have lurked the Berwald touch. Memorably turned, unexpectedly angled, the first two symphonies (1903, 1910), both programmatic, comfortably hold their own, while the D minor Romance (1915) passionately incarnates the Chausson Poème in northern light. Last Summer (1903, drawing on piano originals) reveals the intimate watercolourist. Predictably big-boned and committed, Jurowski’s performances are outstanding, his orchestras giving him remarkable corporate and individual support. Vivid, physically immediate recording. Comprehensive notes from Stig Jacobsson. Splendid.

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