Schumann/Bargiel

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann/Bargiel
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Adagio and Allegro in A flat, Op. 70; Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102; Offertorium from Mass in C minor, Op. 147
PERFORMER: Steven Isserlis (cello), Felicity Lott (soprano), David King (organ), Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/Christoph Eschenbach (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68800 2
With the masterpieces of Dvorák and Elgar dominating the repertoire, Schumann’s Cello Concerto has always tended to be regarded as something of an ‘also ran’. In the right hands, however, it emerges as a strikingly beautiful work, both passionate and intimate. It could hardly receive more effective advocacy than it gets from Steven Isserlis here. There are other revelations on this rewarding CD which not only includes all of Schumann’s surviving music for cello and piano, but also the original cadenza and conclusion of the concerto, the Offertorium from the C minor Mass, with its marvellous cello obbligato, and an Adagio for cello and orchestra by Woldemar Bargiel (Bargiel was Clara Schumann’s half-brother, and, judging by this attractive piece, wrote in a lyrical vein not unlike Max Bruch).

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While there is clear virtue in reviving unfamiliar repertoire, as much harm as good can be done if the performances do not have real commitment. Apart from the Concerto, which receives a near-ideal performance, nearly all of the works on this CD are played with persuasive imagination – Christoph Eschenbach taking on the role of both conductor and piano accompanist with consummate skill. Only the Offertorium seems a little uncertain in delivery, muted rather than devotional. Jan Smaczny