VOLKMANN: Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33. DIETRICH: Cello Concerto
in G minor, Op. 32. GERNSHEIM: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 78. SCHUMANN:
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129.
BORIS TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 1 (1947). The Murmuring
Forest. After the Ball.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G, Op. 44. Concert
Fantasy in G, Op. 56.
GOUNOD: Symphony No. 1 in D. Symphony No. 2 in E flat.
RÖNTGEN: Symphony No. 3 in C minor. Suite Aus Jotunheim.
Arias from Rigoletto, Don Pasquale, La traviata, The Marriage
of Figaro, Carmen, Turandot, Arabella and Der Rosenkavalier
Hyperion's Romantic Cello Concerto series began impressively with concertos by Dohnányi, Enescu and d'Albert (CDA 67544). Volume II contains more treasures. In addition to the familiar Schumann Concerto, we have the only currently available recordings of Albert Dietrich's Concerto, Op. 32, and Friedrich Gernsheim's Concerto, Op. 78. Dietrich (1815-1883) studied with Schumann, was a friend of Brahms and published an important biography of the latter. Gernsheim (1839-1916) also was influenced by Brahms. All of the concertos on this CD are brilliantly played by Alban Gerhardt, with strong orchestral support. A major plus is sonic quality: this recording, made in March 2006 in Berlin with Simon Eadon as engineer and Andrew Keener as producer, has wonderfully natural sound and a perfect balance between soloist and orchestra.
In February 2006, R.D. reviewed a Naxos release of Boris Tchaikovsky's concertos for piano and clarinet, and Signs of the Zodiac (see REVIEW). Naxos' second disk devoted to the composer offers three of his earlier works, Symphony No. 1 (1949) and music he composed for two radio dramas, The Murmuring Forest (1953) and After the Ball (1952). Shostakovich wrote his first symphony in 1924-25 and it was premiered May 12, 1925 with the Leningrad Philharmonic directed by Nikolai Malko. It was a great success and today is considered to be the most impressive first symphony ever written by anyone. Boris Tchaikovsky was not as fortunate. His score was criticized by the Moscow examining board, but Shostakovich, who was the young composer's teacher, wrote him a letter praising the work. The symphony did not receive its premiere until February 7, 1962 with Kirill Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic. The Naxos recording is the first ever made. It's easy to understand why Shostakovich was impressed with the symphony, which has four movements and lasts about 32 minutes. The two suites of incidental music contain varied, brief sections including dances and interludes reminiscent of what is heard in Shostakovich's ballet suites. Although the orchestras sound a bit under-staffed, performances are enthusiastic and well played, with the usual excellent Naxos sound. One again we are indebted to the label.
In 2004 Naxos issued a multi-channel disk (both SACD and DVD audio) containing Tchaikovsky's first and third piano concertos played by Konstantin Scherbakov with Dmitry Yablonsky and the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra (see REVIEW). This is a fine recording in every way compared with the pianist's multi-channel recording of Rachmaninoff's concertos two and three (see REVIEW). Now Naxos completes the pianist's traversal of Tchaikovsky's works for piano and orchestra with this issue of Piano Concerto No. 2 and the unjustly neglected Concert Fantasy in G. Again Scherbakov is in top form.These recordings were made in the same site as the first and third concertos, Studio 5, Russian State TV and Radio Company, in May 2005. Sonically these recordings are first-rate, with splendid balance between soloist(s) and orchestra. Concerto No. 2 is presented with the original extended second movement of the concerto with extensive solos for violin and cello. Dmitry Yablonsky plays the cello solos in both works (there's a brief cello solo in the Concert Fantasy) in addition to conducting the RPO. A fine release, which perhaps eventually will be issued in multi-channel format.
Charles Gounod's two symphonies date from 1855, four years before the premiere of his opera Faust which soon became a favorite on opera stages throughout the world. Seldom performed until almost a century after being written, the two symphonies, each of about a half-hour length, are pleasant if unmemorable. Georges Bizet, when studying with Gounod, made a two-piano transcription of Symphony No. 1 after which, at the age of 17, Bizet wrote his own Symphony in C, a far superior work than either of Gounod's. Should you wish to have these two symphonies, here's an inexpensive way to do so in fine, well-recorded performances by Patrick Gallois and Sinfonia Fionlandia.
Dutch composer Julius Röntgen (1855-1932) was incredibly prolific, writing more than 600 compositions, mostly chamber works. A prominent figure on Holland's musical scene, he played an important part in funding and building a new "concertgebouw" (concert hall) in Amsterdam, recommending that designers replicate the superb Leipzig Gewandhaus hall—which they did very successfully. Röntgen conducted often in the new Concertgebouw, repertory that included Missa Solemnis, Verdi's Requiem, Brahms' German Requiem, and the first Dutch performance of Bach's Mass in B minor. Willem Mengelberg recorded two of Röntgen's Old Netherlands Dances, Op. 46 for Telefunken in November 1940. However, today little of Röntgen's music is available on recordings. This new cpo disk is of interest in that respect, but the music, unfortunately, is of minimal interest. Symphony No. 3 begins grandly, but goes nowhere. The 5-movement suite Aus Jotunheim was influenced by Norwegian folk music. Composed in 1892 for violin and piano, it was dedicated to Edvard and Nina Grieg on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary. Röntgen conducted the orchestral version premiere the following year with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Conductor David Porcelijn and the excellent orchestra do what can be done for this music, and sonic quality is excellent. One might question why more of Röntgen's music wasn't included: 58:02 isn't much playing time for a full-priced disk.
The Anneliese Rothenberger disk is superb, a reminder of what a great singer she was. Here we have her singing (in German) arias from operas by Verdi, Donizetti, Bizet, Mozart, Strauss, and Puccini. The CD is worth having just for the exquisite performances of excerpts from Arabella and Rosenkavalier. All of these recordings were made between 1966 and 1974 when Rothenberger was in her prime. It seems odd, however, that playing time is so short.
R.E.B. (April 2007)