Shostakovich • Britten

COMPOSERS: Dimitri Shostakovich; Benjamin Britten
LABELS: Henssler
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich • Britten
WORKS: Cello Concerto No. 1; Cello Symphony
PERFORMER: Johannes Moser (cello); WDR Symphony Orchestra/Pietari Inkinen


Germany is awash with formidable cellists (Daniel Müller-Schott, Julius Steckel, Alban Gerhardt to name but three), but Johannes Moser has impressed me as one of the most distinctive. Both these virile, confrontational works benefit from his terrific energy and impetuous attack. He slices into the Shostakovich at speed, and there’s a sense that conductor Pietari Inkinen has to whip the orchestra to keep up. Even Pieter Wispelwey’s scintillating recording with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (Channel) cannot match the contrast found here between the dynamic Allegretto and the sepulchral chill of the Moderato. With exquisite eeriness, Moser spins a fine thread of sound in a phrase lasting nearly four minutes, ending with daring heavy vibrato that comes over like shuddering sobs. His ringing, acrobatic cadenza and urgent Allegro make this an exciting performance, the equal of any.

The WDR Symphony Orchestra have two vital ingredients to bring to the Britten Cello Symphony: fabulous horns and lively timpani. While Inkinen may not match the symphonic coherence of Edward Gardner’s achievement with the BBC Philharmonic and Paul Watkins (Chandos) – the cello is recorded far more forwardly here – there’s a strong sense of soloist and orchestra building an edifice together: in that magical moment in the cello cadenza the trumpet enters with a melting restraint, rather than the heaven-storming blast some make it, giving the music room to grow. Moser’s cadenza is beautifully shaped, profoundly meditative but always with its sunlit goal in mind. He may lack the tonal vibrancy and elasticity of Wispelwey, and the sheer force of Rostropovich’s insight, but this is a riveting account.


Helen Wallace