Recorded in London’s Henry Wood Hall in November 1977, these two performances offer a special reminder of the magic of Mstislav Rostropovich. If ever one needs to relive the pure magic of music, that elusive quality that operates above and beyond all words, it is to Rostropovich that one can confidently turn; especially when he is in partnership with another “great”—here, Giulini.
The essence of Camille Saint-Saëns' music comes through perhaps most clearly in his music for solo instrument and orchestra, which exemplifies his elegant combination of melody and conservatory-generated virtuosity. The two cello concertos are here, plus a pair of crowd-pleasing short works for piano and orchestra, and the evergreen Carnival of the Animals, with pianists Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier joining forces along with a collection of instruments that includes the often-omitted glass harmonica. There are all kinds of attractions here: the gently humorous and not over-broad Carnival, the songful cello playing of Truls Mørk, and the little-known piano-and-orchestra scene Africa, Op. 89, with its lightly Tunisian flavor (sample this final track). But really, the central thread connecting them all is the conducting of Neeme Järvi and the light, graceful work of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; French music is the nearly 80-year-old Järvi's most congenial environment, and in this recording, perhaps his last devoted to Saint-Saëns, he has never been better.
Daniel Barenboim, the New Philharmonia Orchestra and Jacqueline du Pre deliver lush interpretations of these cello concertos by Schumann and Saint-Saens. The musicians display finesse and delicacy. These are the definitive performances, absolutely a must-own.
After a highly acclaimed recording of Briten’s Cello Symphony (ONYX4058) Pieter Wispelwey and the Flanders Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Seiko Kim, turn to two romantic cello concertos whose neglect is hard to fathom. Lalo, unusually for a French composer in the mid 19th century, was drawn to chamber music, and formed a string quartet (in which he played viola, and later second violin) that championed the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. His passion for chamber music developed to embrace large scale orchestral works – two violin concertos, the famous 'Symphonie espagnole' for violin and orchestra, a symphony in G minor, the Piano Concerto and the concerto recorded here: the Cello concerto in D minor of 1877.
For the price, Decca's five-disc collection entitled Ultimate Cello Classics does a fairly nice job of introducing listeners to some of the instrument's great literature. It includes the concertos of Dvorák, Saint-Saëns, Elgar, and Tchaikovsky (Rococo Variations), as well as the complete Bach solo suites. There are definite holes in the programming, however. With the exception of the aforementioned works, the remainder of the album is devoted almost exclusively to short transcriptions – works not even written for the cello. This wouldn't be so troubling if the collection included some of the "essential masterpieces" of the twentieth century or any of the sonata literature, works that are certainly more essential to the repertoire than Kreisler or Wieniawski transcriptions.
This was the first commercially produced SACD hybrid super audio on the market. In June of 2000, I sat in one room recording in pcm and the research team of Philips were in the room next door taking my analogue signal directly from my mixer. I first released my pcm version in the fall of 2000. The Pyramix at that time was very primitive but thanks to the Phliips team who worked around the clock to produce the software, we were able to get this DSD version out at the beginning of 2001.
The two sonatas for cello and piano by Camille Saint-Saëns stand as bookends to what was an impressively long compositional career spanning more than seven decades. Much of Saint-Saëns' music for cello, including these two sonatas, has been dismissed as inferior and is rarely performed or recorded. Only the first cello concerto, often played by advanced students of the instrument, remains a common occurrence on disc or stage.
When I first put this disc in the player, I wondered if I would really enjoy it. I had just listened to a performance of the Tchaikovsky played by Sviatoslav Richter accompanied by the Leningrad Philharmonic under Evgeny Mravinsky. Obviously, the first characteristic was a vast improvement in the recording quality over the mono Russian recording (Leningrad, 1957). As the new disc got underway I was very pleasantly surprised, as André Watts, although not Richter, gave a very proficient and exciting reading.