WORKS: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Suite in D minor, Op. 16; Romance in F, Op. 36; Allegro appassionato, Op. 43; Le carnaval des animaux – Le cygne
PERFORMER: Johannes Moser (cello); SWR Radio SO, Stuttgart/Fabrice Bollon
CATALOGUE NO: 93.222
The programme ends with ‘The Swan’, played by Johannes Moser most elegantly and movingly, but Saint-Saëns’s writing for cello and orchestra contains so much more than this, and it’s very good to have the complete oeuvre on a single disc. In particular, Moser gives a strong, impassioned account of the Second Concerto, and while the recording medium spares us the ‘thrown-about hair, the stormy shoulders, the furious brow’ that so irritated one critic at the premiere, we can imagine such things from the playing. It’s in this work that Moser distances himself most noticeably from Maria Kliegel, who offers a not-quite-complete repertoire (Naxos 8.553039). He sounds more in control in the difficult cross‑string work and his tone is warmer; the Stuttgart orchestra is also livelier.
In the First Concerto, there is less to choose between them, though I have to note on the Naxos disc some out-of-tune wind playing from the Bournemouth orchestra when the opening tune returns at the start of the finale. As long as she is not tested too far technically, Kliegel produces a pleasingly plangent tone. But overall, Moser is more imaginative and alive to the music’s dramatic possibilities. And why isn’t the wonderful Suite Op. 16 heard more often? Roger Nichols