C.P.E. Bach would undoubtedly rejoice, were he alive, upon hearing this album of his cello concertos by Truls Mørk and Les Violons du Roy under the direction of Bernard Labadie. From the opening notes, one cannot help but feel the orchestra is fantastic. The A major Cello Concerto begins with vigor and liveliness, with the ensemble playing perfectly together in tempo with great spirit. Mørk plays just as well, with a clean, accurate, and somewhat light touch.
What a versatile artist Steven Isserlis is. Having made his name as a sympathetic interpreter of a wide variety of romantic and modern music, here he shows he can be just as persuasive in eighteenth-century repertoire. His stylistic awareness is evident in beautiful, elegant phrasing, selective use of vibrato and varied articulation, giving an expressive range that never conflicts with the music’s natural language. In the cello concertos he is helped by an extremely sensitive accompaniment, stressing the chamber musical aspects of Haydn’s pre-London orchestral writing. The soft, intimate sonority at 3'06'' in the first movement of the D major is a typical example. The Adagios are taken at a flowing speed, but Isserlis’s relaxed approach means they never sound hurried. The Allegro molto finale of the C major Concerto, on the other hand, sounds poised rather than the helter-skelter we often hear. In his understanding of the music, Isserlis is a long way ahead of Han-na Chang, whose version places the emphasis on fine, traditional-style cello playing. Mork’s vivacious, imaginative performances characterize the music very strongly, but my preference would be for Isserlis’s and Norrington’s lighter touch and greater refinement.
The Cello Concerto No.1 in C Major, Hob. VIIb/1, by Joseph Haydn was composed around 1761–1765 for longtime friend Joseph Weigl, then the principal cellist of Prince Nicolaus's Esterhazy Orchestra. The work was presumed lost until 1961, when musicologist Oldrich Pulkert discovered a copy of the score at the Prague National Museum. Though some doubts have been raised about the authenticity of the work, most experts believe that Haydn did compose this concerto.
The music of Nino Rota is featured on this album with cellist Friedrich Kleinhapl and Philharmonisches Orchester Augsburg conducted by Dirk Kaftan. Rota is a musical chameleon who convincingly conjures Mozart, 19th-century Romantics, or Hollywood. The first of his two cello concertos on the album is a romantic throwback to the 19th century, though written in 1972. Kleinhapl is a perfect choice to perform this work, for his playing is very agile and expressive. His tends to have a thinner, more lyrical style of playing, like a violin, and his bow technique is fluid, moving easily between the strings.
Very few conductors have recorded as much Bach as Karl Richter and none can lay a stronger claim to a legacy based on championing the master. Richter's reverence for Bach is evinced by the simplicity, splendor, and grandeur with which he consistently imbued his performances exemplified here by these landmark recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites. In Archiv's original-image bit-processing remastered transfers as well, the sound is better than ever. This is cornerstone Bach that should not be missed.