Cello Recital: Vytautas Sondeckis (David Geringas/ Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/ Vytautas Sondeckis) (Naxos: 8.554381)
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Romantic Music forCello and Orchestra
Virtuoso cello music developed in the earlier years of the nineteenthcentury, coinciding with a change in musical fashions. The expressive range ofthe instrument, coupled with an extension of technique parallel to thecontemporary development of violin technique, led to an exploration of thepossibilities of the instrument in music of varying quality, some of which nowsurvives principally in the practice studio. At the same time the needs of thetravelling virtuoso were increasingly met by transcriptions. The presentcollection represents repertoire by leading Russian and Lithuanian composers ofthe later nineteenth century and the twentieth.
Rimsky-Korsakov's dramatic Flight of the Bumble-Bee has taxed thedexterity of many an instrumentalist in arrangement after arrangement. The beein question, a young prince in disguise and set on revenge against his wickedaunts, makes his flight in the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan. It waslate in his career that Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his Serenade, Opus 37, forcello and orchestra, an arrangement of a work for cello and piano written tenyears earlier. The new arrangement was dedicated to the composer's son, Andrey.
The Lithuanian composer, pianist and conductor Balys Dvarionas was theson of an instrument maker and member of a family that earned much distinctionin music. He studied at the Leipzig Conservatory with Abendroth and Karg-Elertand in Berlin with Egon Petri. He established an international career as apianist, before turning to conducting, notably as founder of the VilniusSymphony Orchestra. His By the Lake, characteristic of a style that hadits roots in the folk-music of his country, makes full use of the range andlyrical power of the cello. The Introduction and Rondino for cello andorchestra draws on material of similar character. The Introduction allowsthe cello an expressive melodic line, followed by a lively dance-like principalmelody for the little rondo, with its attractively contrasting episodes.
Tchaikovsky's most significant addition to solo cello repertoire lies inhis Rococo Variations and, to a lesser extent, his Pezzo Capriccioso.
The Melodie, here transcribed for cello and orchestra, is the thirdof the pieces for violin and piano published as Souvenirs d'un lieu cher. Themonths after the early break-down of his disastrous marriage had takenTchaikovsky abroad, where he was, nevertheless, able to write his ViolinConcerto. Returning to Russia, he took advantage of the hospitality offeredby his new and unseen patron, Nadezhda von Meck, staying, in her absence, ather Ukraine estate at Brailov, and leaving the set of pieces of which thecharming Melodie is the third, for his benefactress as a token ofgratitude. It was Tchaikovsky's friendship in Paris with the young Russiancellist Anatoly Brandukov that brought about the Pezzo Capriccioso andBrandukov was also able to augment his repertoire with two transcriptions thatTchaikovsky made in 1886-7 and 1888. The first of these was a version of an earlierpiano piece, the fourth of a set written in 1873, the Nocturne, Opus 19,No. 4. Still more familiar in this and other arrangements is the Andantecantabile, a transcription by the composer of the slow movement of his StringQuartet No. 1 in D major, Opus 11, of 1871.
Anton Rubinstein, one of the greatest pianists of his generation, wasgiven the task, under royal patronage, of establishing the first conservatoryof music in Russia, in St Petersburg, and soon followed by a parallelestablishment in Moscow under the direction of his brother Nikolay. It was inSt Petersburg that Tchaikovsky had his professional musical training and inMoscow that he found his first employment as a musician. For the Russiannationalist composers of the second half of the nineteenth century Rubinsteinbecame associated, as a composer, with suggestions of kitsch, an unfairjudgement. It is, however, for his sentimental Melodie that he is stillpopularly remembered.
The Russian cellist Karl Dav?»dov studied composition with MoritzHauptmann in Leipzig and was recruited by Mendelssohn's friend and associate,the violinist Ferdinand David, as a soloist and then as principal cellist inthe Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. From 1862 he made his career once more inRussia, serving as professor of the cello in St Petersburg at the conservatoryof which he later became director. His preferred ambitions as a composer wereto some extent met by the various concertos and other works he wrote for hisown instrument. Something of his own technical command of the cello is clearfrom the effective Ballade, Opus 25, of 1875. The earlier At theFountain, Opus 20, No. 2, is a further exercise in rapid virtuosity.
A composition pupil of Tchaikovsky at the Moscow Conservatory, SergeyIvanovich Taneyev was the soloist in the first Russian performance of histeacher's First Piano Concerto and after Tchaikovsky's resignation fromthe Conservatory took over some of his classes. As a composer he belongs to thegeneration that was able to reconcile, to some extent, the aspirations of thenationalists with a fully professional command of the technical resources ofcomposition. His Canzona of 1883, originally intended for clarinet andstrings and then arranged by the composer for cello and piano, reflects somethingof the influence of Tchaikovsky in its melodic expressiveness.
1905 had brought political disturbances in Russia, but it was the eventsof 1917 that shattered the older world, as the Bolsheviks came to power.
Shostakovich studied in St Petersburg during a period of considerable change,completing his courses at the Conservatory in 1926. He was to suffer overtofficial condemnation in 1936 and again in 1948. The romantic Adagio isdrawn from Ballet Suite No. 2 of 1951, arranged by Atovmyan and derivedfrom work originally undertaken with a certain reluctance. The short movementhas enjoyed considerable popularity in this version.
As its title proclaims, a wordless song, Rachmaninov's Vocalise,Opus 34, No. 14, has a powerful attraction all its own, in whatever arrangementit may appear. Written in 1912 and revised three years later, it is in singularcontrast to the events taking place at the time of its revision. Two yearslater, after the Russian withdrawal from war with Germany and the final Bolshevikaccession to power, Rachmaninov was to leave Russia for ever, preferring anexile that forced a change of emphasis in his career, from composition toperformance.