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Elgar & Tchaikovsky: Cello Concertos - Moser / Manze

Elgar & Tchaikovsky: Cello Concertos - Moser / Manze

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186 570

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Elgar: Cello Concerto
Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Nocturne, Andante cantabile, Pezzo capriccioso

Johannes Moser (cello)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Andrew Manze (conductor)


The profoundly moving, elegiac lyricism of Elgar and the wistful charm and brilliance of Tchaikovsky are on full display in this irresistible new release from PENTATONE played with consummate virtuosity by the German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Andrew Manze.

Composed at the end of the First World War, Elgar’s powerful Cello Concerto in E minor is one of his best-loved and most deeply-felt works. The soloist’s wrenching chords which open the work announce a mood of profound resignation and loss; gone is the youthful swagger of his earlier works, replaced instead with lonely introspection and longing, especially in the sublimely beautiful Adagio. The cello is given free rein in the vigorous final movement but the opening mood prevails as an anguished outburst from the cello brings the work to a close.

No such dejection hangs over Tchaikovsky’s delightful Variations on a Rococo Theme which ooze elegance, ineffable charm and daring displays of technical brilliance. While the Pezzo capriccioso finds Tchaikovsky in a more restrained mood, with the Nocturne and Andante Cantabile he wears his romantic heart full on his sleeve. The great Russian writer Leon Tolstoy is said to have wept when he heard the Andante Cantabile and its sumptuous theme shows Tchaikovsky’s unerring gift for haunting melodies. It remains a special gem in the repertoire.

The cellist Johannes Moser is no stranger to these works. Winner of the top prize at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, he was also awarded the Special Prize for his interpretation of the Variations on a Rococo Theme.

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Review by Graham Williams - February 22, 2017

This coupling of works by Elgar and Tchaikovsky represents a further triumph for cellist Johannes Moser whose first release for the PENTATONE label of the Dvorak and Lalo cello concertos Dvořák / Lalo: Cello Concertos - Moser, Hrůša has justifiably garnered considerable critical acclaim.

Elgar's valedictory Cello Concerto receives a commanding and richly eloquent performance from Moser, in which he is superbly supported by Andrew Manze and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande whose sympathetic accompaniment throughout matches the soloist's personal approach to the piece. The powerfully delivered opening cadenza sets the tone of Moser's interpretation that plays to the underlying strength of the music rather than over-emphasising its poignant nostalgia.The cellist's pacing in all four movements is uncontroversial and his playing free of any of the mannerisms that sometimes mar otherwise fine versions of this much recorded concerto. Needless to say his virtuosity and flawless technique impress in the light and beautifully articulated 'Scherzo', while the 'Adagio' has a glowing warmth devoid of sentimentality. Manze and the OSR come into their own in the finale with lively and incisive orchestral playing that provides perfect support for Moser's notably objective account of this score.

For many collectors this work was redefined by the 1965 recording of the concerto by Jacqueline du Pré and Sir John Barbirolli, and it will always have a special place in their affections. The combination of the cellist's uninhibited, passionate style of playing and her unique ability to pull at the listener's heartstrings wi remains mesmerising. But while the EMI re-mastering for SACD (2-channel only) Elgar, Delius: Cello Concertos - Jacqueline du Pre sounds good for its age, it hardly compares with the vividness of this PENTATONE release.

Those who have waited for a recording of this concerto to appear on multi-channel SACD will be delighted by the superlative sound quality of this production. The experienced Erdo Groot, here acting as both producer and balance engineer, has achieved a wonderfully spacious yet detailed sound that in both stereo and multi-channel realistically re-creates the excellent acoustic of the Victoria Hall, Geneva in one's listening room.

Though for many listeners the main draw will be the first recording of the Elgar concerto in high resolution sound, Johannes Moser's performances of the four Tchaikovsky works that make up the rest of the programme are equally desirable.

The popular 'Variations on a Rococo Theme' were commissioned by the German cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen who, in the wake of the first performance in 1877, took it upon himself to make substantial alterations to Tchaikovsky's carefully constructed score; consisting of an Introduction and Theme with eight Variations. Fitzenhagen changed the order of the eight Variations to I, II, VI,VII, IV, V, III and omitted Variation VIII altogether. Unfortunately it is Fitzenhagen's corrupt edition that has been recorded by most cellists, so Moser is to be congratulated in joining a handful of cellists who have recorded Tchaikovsky's superior original version. Moser's playing has all the piquant rococo complaisance one could wish for as well as demonstrating his quicksilver virtuosity in the faster variations. The crisp accompaniment provide by Manze and the OSR make for an unmissable performance.

The three shorter pieces that follow – Tchaikovsky's own arrangements for cello and string orchestra of the well-known 'Andante Cantabile' from his 1st String Quartet, a 'Nocturne' from a set of six piano pieces and the 'Pezzo Capriccioso' – are all suited to Moser's rich cantabile playing and make very worthwhile and enjoyable addenda to the main works on the disc.

These compelling Elgar and Tchaikovsky readings, recorded in audiophile sound, are a most welcome addition to Johannes Moser's growing discography and can be highly recommended.

Copyright © 2017 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comments (9)
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Comment by John Broggio - January 14, 2017 (1 of 9)

Somewhat incredibly, this is the first MCH recording of this masterpiece on hi-res audio! Fingers crossed...

Comment by Luketsu - January 14, 2017 (2 of 9)

John, I ordered this in advance four weeks ago. Up to now I have listened it once.

Elgar is simply superb: Moser offers a sensitive performance just like du Pré at one time. He has an admirable ability to create silky tone and I think this was one of the reasons why he signed a contract with PENTATONE. For example the affecting third movement includes some lovely moments. And the virtuosity of the second movement will take your breath away. The works of Tchaikovsky are decent fillers, especially rarely heard original version of Rococo Variations.

In multichannel the DSD recording is pleasantly warm providing full-bodied sense of space. I'm sure that you will not be disappointed.

I look forward to read your review!

Comment by William Hecht - January 16, 2017 (3 of 9)

I've been waiting for the Elgar to appear since sacd was brand new, so I'm really looking forward to this, but it's a shame the choice of fillers is so prosaic when there are other fine concertos still awaiting release on sacd. Just off the top of my head, and sticking with the British isles, how about Finzi, or Moeran, or Stanford, or the Britten cello symphony?

Comment by john hunter - January 17, 2017 (4 of 9)

There are not that many recordings of the Tchaikovsky I think so I welcome this recording with open arms! I have the Du Pre on SACD but have been looking forward to a MC recording one day. Moser's Dvorak was superb in my view which bodes well for this.

Comment by hiredfox - January 20, 2017 (5 of 9)

He played the Elgar with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra recently so it is good to see that he has recorded the work albeit with a different orchestra. We are not over burdened with recordings of this work especially on SACD but the old and somewhat laboured Du Pre retreads are beginning to show their age and Moser's interpretation gives us something refreshingly different.

Comment by hiredfox - April 23, 2017 (6 of 9)

Excellent! All I had hoped for and Moser has delivered. Great to have a decent modern account on SACD in DSD at last.

Comment by William Hecht - April 23, 2017 (7 of 9)

I wholeheartedly agree about the Elgar, it's glorious. The Tchaikovsky pieces are just as beautifully played and recorded but I find the changeover from the profound Elgar to the predominantly charming Tchaikovsky pieces to be jarring and unfortunate. This disc will get plenty of time in my player but I won't be listening straight through in the future.

Comment by hiredfox - May 13, 2017 (8 of 9)

JOHANNES MOSER'S LATEST ALBUM IS THIS MONTH'S GRAMOPHONE EDITOR'S CHOICE

"A most unusual account of the Elgar Concerto, one that’s both musically gripping and recorded at relatively close quarters... Moser, although playing from the heart, never sentimentalises the music, and Manze is obviously of a like mind.... Moser offers a performance that combines sensitivity, agility, and brilliance, while Manze and the Suisse Romande Orchestra are consistently on the ball."
Gramophone, May 2017

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - May 25, 2017 (9 of 9)

Superb playing and recording.