WORKS: Cello Concerto in A minor; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Three Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 8
PERFORMER: Pieter Wispelwey (cello), Paolo Giacometti (piano); Australian CO, Netherlands Wind Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 11097
Pieter Wispelwey excels in this elegant reading of Schumann’s Cello Concerto. Shying away from self-indulgence, he plays with a delicate touch and sparing use of vibrato, allowing his mellifluous tone to speak for itself in the melancholy first movement. After a spacious and lyrical slow movement, Wispelwey produces dashing spiccato in the chimerical finale, and a sensitively coloured cadenza. The Australian CO and Netherlands Wind Ensemble combine under leader Richard Tognetti to give well-balanced, crisp support, the only flaw surfacing in the finale, where the cello is occasionally overshadowed in its deeper register.
Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, originally for clarinet and piano, are equally fine. Wispelwey uses gut A and D strings for this and the following works, imbuing the cello’s upper register with a deliciously brittle colour, while pianist Paolo Giacometti achieves transparent textures.
Janos Starker’s 1994 recording sets a precedent for coupling the Schumann and Hindemith Concertos, but Wispelwey opts instead for Hindemith’s rarely heard Pieces, Op. 8. The juxtaposition works well, underlining the Romantic inflections and clarity of texture of these early pieces, from the long-limbed gestures of the Phantasiestück to the angular yet lyrical chromaticism of the Scherzo: Wispelwey and Giacometti play with refinement and poise. A charming and understated reading of the wistful second of Schumann’s five Stücke im Volkston, brings to an end this beautifully conceived recording. Catherine Nelson