Dvořák, Caplet: Cello Concertos - Rochat, Levy
Ars Produktion ARS 38 301
Classical - Orchestral
Antonín Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 (1895)
André Caplet: Épiphanie (d’après une légende éthopienne), Op. 22 (1923)
Nadège Rochat (cello)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Benjamin Levy (conductor)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - November 13, 2021
Nadège Rochat is an accomplished cello player and many believe that Dvorak’s cello concerto is one of the best ever written. Having both on one disc must, therefore, be a super gift for any new and enthusiastic music lover. But there is a slight caveat to be taken into account.
I am with those who do not share the communis opinio about Dvorak’s cello concerto being one of the very best. Beautiful though many passages are, some of the orchestral outbursts may be effective for an eager audience but are not free of a certain degree of awkward orchestration. A matter of personal appreciation? Must be because there is hardly any soloist of name and fame that doesn’t have it in its repertoire. Yet - and to my subjective taste - only in the hands of top soloists and orchestras, and directed by inspired conductors, does it come to full bloom. Question is: do Rochat, the RSNA and Maestro Levy fit that bill?
The short answer is, Yes, they do. But, and here is the caveat, quite unlike other ARS recordings, de sound does not fully live up to their usual excellence. I missed some of the warmth, so clearly present in Mme Rochat’s previous ARS recording in what I think is a so much more rewarding cello concerto Cello Abbey - Rochat / Meyer. A pity because fans of Nadège, and there are many, including me, who will on the one hand be enthralled about her lovingly shaped and exemplarily virtuosi reading, but would on the other regret that sound wise the recording falls short of the competition.
There is nonetheless a compelling reason for taking a closer look at this new ARS release: André Caplet’s rarely played Épiphanie Op. 22, thus far not available in Super Audio and hardly in RBCD.
Caplet died young. That’s probably why much of his oeuvre remained under-valued. What’s more, few people seem to be aware that he was a brilliant conductor. He successfully directed The Boston Opera Company from 1910 till 1914. And who knows better the possibilities of what an orchestra can do and handle, be it technical or in terms of sound balance, than a conductor? A not to be underestimated factor for any composer. Mahler springs to mind! It must not only have helped Caplet to win, like his friend Debussy, the 1901 coveted ‘Grand Prix de Rome’ with the cantata ‘Myrrha’ (scène lyrique pour trois voix solistes et orchestra), but also to have enabled him to create such a well-balanced ‘Fresque musicale pour violoncelle principal et orchestre’ played here in a remarkably enchanting and fairy-like performance by Nadège Rochat and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of Benjamin Levy.
The first movement, ‘Cortège’, develops in a mistic cloud of haunting music that grips all your attention. The cello mixes wondrously with the orchestral parts, and in the more than 4 minutes cadence, Nadège excels in her solo part with tambourine accompaniment. The closing Dance of the ‘petits nègres’, an expression that would nowadays be frowned at, to say the least, is a marvel of orchestration inviting us to hear more of this composer.
If not altogether for yet another Dvorak, then one should seriously consider sampling this release for Caplet. A jewel not to be missed. The more so while the sound is better and, interestingly, in both cases, the surround is more modest than we have grown accustomed to with ARS’s recording style.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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