Monthly Archives: November 2003

Daniel Muller-Schott (cello) Australian Chamber Orchestra

Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (Haydn);

Romances 1& 2 (Beethoven)

Orfeo C 080 031 A
TPT: 0:56:26

Reviewed by Neville Cohn


There’s more transcribed music for cello on an Orfeo CD featuring the youthful Daniel Muller-Schott in version for cello and orchestra of Beethoven’s two Romances, originally written for violin and orchestra.

In ensemble with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Muller-Schott elects to play the Romances at a significantly quicker pace than is usually encountered in performance on the violin – but there is in no sense, a suggestion of rush here; it is entirely persuasive, the progeny of a meaningful marriage of profound musical insight and blissfully pleasing tonal colourings.

In Haydn’s two concertos for cello, Muller-Schott scales Olympus. In the opening measures of the first concerto, the soloist draws his bow across the strings to generate hackle-raising waves of grainy tone; it is like a call to arms. And in the slow movement, soloist and orchestra set an unusually restrained pace but succeed in maintaining a flowing sense of onward momentum, one of music’s hardest calls to which soloist and ACO respond in the most musicianly way. And in the finale, the soloist powers to the closing bars like some sublime cellistic athlete.

The second concerto yields fine listening dividends, too, with the slow movement a sedately lulling intermezzo which gives way to a finale that alternates between a swaying motif and cheery, impish utterances.

So far as these performances are concerned, and not least the mostly impeccable accompaniments from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, this is a compilation to which, to paraphrase Messrs G.B.Shaw, Lerner and Loewe, I could have listened all night.

© November 2003

Peter Wispelwey (cello) Carlo Giacometti (piano)

Sonata in A (Franck)
Adagio and Allegro, opus 70 (Schumann)
Sonata in D, opus 78 (Brahms)
Channel Classics CCS 18698
TPT: 1:02:07

Reviewed by Neville Cohn

Peter Wispelwey is one of the most adventurous of cellists. His recitals extend to just about all of the standard repertoire for the instrument – but he has made something of a specialty of playing transcriptions of music written for other media. His discography, for instance, includes a CD of Chopin waltzes for cello and piano – and, on another compact disc, transcriptions for cello and piano of Schubert’s three Sonatinas for violin and piano in a version for cello and piano.
One of his most recent CD releases is largely devoted to sonatas originally conceived for violin and piano but here presented in transcriptions for cello and piano. By any standards, this is a remarkable effort, not least for the contribution of Italian master pianist Paolo Giacometti.
For those for whom Cesar Franck’s Sonata for violin and piano means much (as it does to many), there might be, I dare say, some scepticism about its workability in a version for cello instead of the violin. Listen for yourselves. Franck’s wondrous creation loses little in transcription; it sounds as convincing in this version as the original. Certainly, Wispelwey and Giacometti play with such understanding of the genre, drawing always on a deep well of expressiveness, that one is drawn ineluctably into Franck’s idiosyncratic sound and mood world. It is not one whit less meaningful in its altered state.
From the opening moments during which the gently rocking cello line caresses the ear, Wispelwey and Giacometti give us some of the most sheerly beautiful playing you’re ever likely to encounter – and, in the grandest of passions, the duo sweeps through the Allegro. There’s more magic in the recitative cello line that introduces the third movement; it’s presented in the most expansive and leisurely way, the notes clothed in luxurious tone. And in the finale, the knotty problems of balance between cello and piano are resolved in a most satisfactory way so that each instrument is heard to best advantage, no mean feat of musicianship. And the turbulence that informs so much of the outer movements is conveyed as if to the manner born by Wispelwey and Giacometti.
Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro, opus 70, originally conceived for horn and piano, loses nothing at all in transcription which says as much for the universality of Schumann’s ideas as the skill of the two musicians. It is a splendid achievement with phrasing as natural as breathing – and the allegro section throbbing with ardour. Bravo!
There’s more splendour in Brahms’ Sonata, opus 78. In much of the first movement, Wispelwey and Giacometti caress the phrase lines of the music like leisurely lovers. Wispelwey’s cello tone is splendidly rich in the double stopping of the closing measure.

MOZART Coronation Concerto K537

Concerto for two pianos K365* 

Rondos for piano and orchestra K382 & 386

Carl Seeman and Andor Foldes* (pianos)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Fritz Lehmann (conductor)DG MONO 474 611-2
TPT: 1:17:56

 reviewed by Neville Cohn


Some of the most enterprising and fascinating compilations on Australia-generated compact discs can be found on the MOVE label. The intriguingly titled ensemble, Woof!, offers what is claimed as the first ever complete recording of Percy Grainger’s Tuneful Percussion. Played on authentic instruments, which include the composer’s own bells and marimba, this compilation – 16 tracks on MD 3222 – includes a number of works never placed on record before.Stereo buffs, who avoid listening to anything that isn’t preserved by state-of-the-art recording equipment, will probably not deign to expose their ears to this 1953 recording – and mono at that. It’s their loss.Carl Seeman and Andor Foldes are not nearly as well known now as they were in their heyday. Foldes is particularly remembered for his trailblazing work in bringing the piano music of Bartok to a wide international audience in the 1950s – and Seeman was a pianist of distinction in the standard classical repertoire.In this all-Mozart compilation, the two feature as soloists in the Concerto for two pianos, K365; it’s music – and music making – of near-untrammelled delight. True, recorded sound borders on the tinny at times, and elsewhere the instruments remind one more of fortepianos than modern concert grands.

But the clarity and fluency of the playing make this a performance to cherish. Listen to the precision with which the two synchronise their trills and even the most rapid passagework. At the same time, there is nothing in the least mechanical or rigid about the playing. On the contrary, it has a winning freshness and vitality, a sense of spontaneity. And at its most chromatic, the performances border on the euphoric but invariably within the line and contour of the 18th century. Certainly, the inherent joyousness of much of the writing is splendidly evoked.

I very much admired, too, the quality of string playing in the introduction to the Coronation Concerto. With its rhythmic bite and graceful strength, it comes across as Mozartean playing par excellence. And Seeman’s performance is a joy to listen to, giving, as it does, point and meaning to what in lesser hands could so easily sound like vacuous note spinning.

Recorded sound tends to dryness but there are many compensations, not least the integrity of Seeman’s playing with its trademark clarity. There is no hint here of the sort of sentimentality favoured by some and which can so easily bring an unwanted cloying, honeyed quality to the music.

Fritz Lehmann takes the BPO through exemplary accompaniments to the concertos – and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Seeman’s account of the Rondos, K 382 and K 386. These charming pieces seldom figure on concert programs but they are certainly worth listening to, especially, as here, when given such stylish treatment.

© November 2003