DVORAK / ELGAR: Cello Concertos

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AntoninDvorak (1841 - 1904)

CelloConcerto in B Minor, Op. 104

EdwardElgar (1857 - 1934)

CelloConcerto in E Minor, Op. 85

TheCello Concertos of the Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak and the English composer SirEdward Elgar represent the summit of romantic achievement in the form. The concertantecello found a place in later Baroque repertoire, with solo cello concertos by Vivaldi,Tartini and others, leading to the classical concertos of composers in Mannheim, Viennaand Berlin and the concertos of Haydn and Boccherini. It was not until 1850 that the celloconcerto received the attention of major romantic composers, with Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto of that year. Brahms paired theinstrument with the violin in his Double Concerto

of 1887, but it was Dvorak who in 1895 first provided a concerto in which the solo celloforms an essential part of a full symphonic texture.

Theson of a village butcher-cum-inn-keeper, Dvorak made his early career as a viola-player,serving for a time under Smetana at the Czech National Theatre. By 1873, the year of hismarriage to a singer in the chorus of the National Theatre, he was able to leave theorchestra in order to devote more time to composition, further security being provided bya government award given on the recommendation of Brahms and the critic Hanslick, amongothers. Although Dvorak, as a Bohemian, was to meet some hostility in Vienna, heestablished an international reputation as a composer over the following years, and in1892 accepted the position of director of the new National Conservatory in New York. Heretained this position until 1895, with a welcome and extended period of leave at homebefore returning in the autumn of 1894 to resume his duties.

Dvorakwrote his B minor Cello Concerto, his secondattempt at the form, in America during the winter months of his new contract, at therequest of his colleaguein Prague, the cellist Hanus Wihan. Alter his return home, Wihan suggested variouschanges, including additional cadenzas written by himself, but these Dvorak adamantlyrejected. The first performance of the concerto took place not in Prague but at theQueen's Hall in London on 19th March 1896, with the English-born cellist Leo Stern, whoplayed the work on subsequent tours. Wihan first performed the concerto in public threeyears later, although he had in fact been the first to play through the work with thecomposer in the previous August. In June, after his return from America, the composer hadalready rewritten the ending of the work.

Thefirst movement of the concerto opens with an orchestral exposition, the first theme playedby the clarinets and restated emphatically by the rest of the orchestra before theappearance of the second theme, introduced by a solo French horn. The solo cello enterswith the first theme, subject thereafter to a number of improvisatory variations, beforethe soloist plays the second subject. In the central development section remoter keysfollow, the cello playing the principal theme in a poignantly slower version, andproviding an accompaniment to further variations by the wind instruments of the orchestra.

The soloist finally ushers in the last section with a repetition of the second theme, anunexpected turn of events. It is, however, the first theme that re-appears to end themovement. The slow movement opens with the principal theme played by the clarinet,accompanied by bassoons and oboes. The theme is then taken up by the solo cello. A middlesection, in marked dramatic contrast, makes use of the opening phrase of a song written byDvorak in 1887. The principal theme appears again, played by three French horns, to befollowed by a cello cadenza and a brief coda. Thefinale of the concerto is in free rondo form, its principal theme finallyappearing in its full form when the soloist enters. This theme serves as a link between aseries of episodes, rich in variety and in opportunities for the soloist. The extendedcoda includes a reference to the opening of the first movement, played by the clarinetsbefore the triumphant conclusion of the whole work.

Formany Edward Elgar has unfairly been identified exclusively with the music of the BritishEmpire. This imperialist reputation has been vulgarly stressed by compositions such as thePomp and Circumstance Marches, but these mayseem merely the accidents of fashion and history. Elgar's real achievement as a composermust lie in the handful of chamber works written at the end of the 1914-18 war, the twosymphonies, the viol in and cello concertos and in the remarkable choral set ting ofCardinal Newman's The Dream of Gerontius.

Elgar, himself a violinist of modest competence, completed his Violin Concerto in 1910. The Cello Concerto, written after the war, was influencedby the relative economy of means that the composer had discovered in his string quartet and pianoquintet of the preceding year. It differs from the Violin Concerto in particular in its intenseconcentration of material. He worked on the composition during the summer of 1918 with thecollaboration of the cellist Felix Salmond, the cellist in earlier performances of Elgar'sQuartet and Piano Quintet and later an influential teacher atthe Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute. The first performance was grossly underrehearsed, since the conductor of the rest of the programme, Albert Coates, described inher diary by Lady Elgar as "that brutal selfish ill-mannered bounder Coates",used rehearsal time allocated to the concerto for Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, keeping Elgar waiting for an hour.

The public reception of the work was, in consequence, luke-warm, while some critics atleast correctly apportioned the blame for the inadequate first performance of a major workby the greatest of living English composers.

Thefirst movement of Elgar's Cello Concerto

opens with a grandiose statement by the soloist, leading, in almost improvisatory style,to a lilting melody announced by the violas. This is repeated by the soloist, whocontinues to dominate the movement. Plucked chords by the soloist lead to the secondmovement, a melancholy Scherzo, in which thesoloist is again to the fore, with orchestration of the greatest economy. There is stillgreater poignancy in the brief slow movement, a continuous solo for the cello. The final Rondo opens with eight bars in which the first themeis suggested, to be interrupted by a declamatory statement from the soloist, before themovement is allowed to take its full course. Even then the excitement and joy of theprincipal theme are broken by references to earlier themes in the concerto and the mood ofautumnal introspective melancholy that make this one of Elgar's greatest works. At the endof the score, where Haydn might have written Deogratias, Elgar wrote the words Finis. R.I.P., intentionally or not signallingthe concerto as the end of his creative life, the end of a war but also the end of an age.

MariaKliegel achieved significant success in 1981, when she was awarded the grand prix in theRostropovich Competition. Born in Dillenburg, Germany, she began learning the cello at theage of ten and first came to public attention five years later, when, as a student at theDr. Hochsches Conservatory in Frankfurt, she twice won first prize in the Jugend Musiziertcompetition. She later studied in America with Janos Starker, serving as his assistant,and subsequently appeared in a phenomenal series of concerts in America, Switzerland andFrance, with Rostropovich as conductor. She has since then enjoyed an internation
Item number 8550503
Barcode 4891030505032
Release date 12/01/2000
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Kliegel, Maria
Kliegel, Maria
Composers Dvorak, Antonin
Elgar, Edward
Dvorak, Antonin
Elgar, Edward
Conductors Halasz, Michael
Halasz, Michael
Orchestras Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Producers Khouri, Murray
Khouri, Murray
Disc: 1
Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85
1 Allegro
2 Adagio ma non troppo
3 Finale: Allegro moderato - Andante - Allegro vivo
4 Adagio - Moderato
5 Lento - Allegro molto
6 Adagio
7 Allegro, ma non troppo
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