Schumann, Widmann

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann,Widmann
LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Cello Concerto in A minor
PERFORMER: Jan Vogler (cello), Salome Kammer, Ursula Hesse (soprano); Munich CO/Christoph Poppen
CATALOGUE NO: 0017142 BC
In one of the unhappiest of recorded alliances, Schumann’s nobly crafted, soulfully enigmatic Cello Concerto sits awkwardly beside Jörg Widmann’s new work Dunkle Saiten – 45 minutes of ‘let’s try to be clever’ post-modernist cacophony. Jan Vogler, the cellist for whom it was written, succeeds in making the best of its fragmentary material and brutal effects, and still finds enough left in reserve to give a capable performance of the Schumann Concerto. For all that, I suspect most collectors will probably conclude that this release has just shot itself in the foot. Widmann’s new piece is as bewildering as it’s over-long.

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In the Schumann Concerto, Jan Vogler’s sober restraint, assured technique and innate musical sensitivity generate a performance that’s certainly more considered and measured than most, but which is still keenly alive to the elusive, internalised character of the work. But there are numerous superior alternatives. Many, like Heinrich Schiff (Philips) and Mischa Maisky (DG), also include Schumann’s shorter works with piano, and there’s also Janos Starker’s coupling (with Lalo and Saint-Saëns) on Mercury Living Presence. All are outstanding, but if you require superb performances which illuminate and excite, go for Schiff’s Schumann disc with Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw. Michael Jameson