Schumann, Lalo, Saint-Saëns - Cello Concertos (APE)
Schumann, Lalo, Saint-Saëns – Cello Concertos (APE)

Performer: János Starker
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Antal Doráti
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Mercury
Size: 288 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 – 1. Nicht zu schnell
02. Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 – 2. Langsam
03. Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 – 3. Sehr lebhaft
04. Lalo: Cello Concerto in D minor – 1. Prélude: Lento – Allegro maestoso
05. Lalo: Cello Concerto in D minor – 2. Intermezzo: Andantino con moto – Allegro presto
06. Lalo: Cello Concerto in D minor – 3. Andante – Allegro vivace
07. Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.33 – 1. Allegro non troppo
08. Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.33 – 2. Allegretto con moto
09. Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.33 – 3. Un peu moins vite

An essential performance

Janos Starker recorded the Schumann Concerto more than once: this performance, from the 1960s, was the second, and, of those I have heard, I think the best – in fact, I’d say it’s about the best performance of the concerto I’ve heard altogether. Starker is never tempted to romanticize the music as some cellists are, and as a result it emerges stronger and can be appreciated for the masterwork it is. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and the London Symphony Orchestra provide a similarly taut orchstral performance. Starker has composed a cadenza which comes just before the last movement – or should I say section as all three run together.

This performance has previously been issued on Philips coupled with the Dvorak concerto but this new issue has added attraction of being a hybrid SACD for those who can take advantage of it.

For the Schumann Concerto, this is an essential disc.

Neither of the other works is on the level of the Schumann, but they are also very well performed, and the Saint-Saens in particular is very enjoyable.

Since first writing these comments I’ve heard (on LP) a performance by Maurice Gendron with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi – also very good, and similar in style to the Starker and Skrowaczewski. I would still say that Starker / Skrowaczewski have the edge, both in performance and sound (though it is a bit earlier), and in any case so far as I can see Gendron’s stereo performance is not yet available on CD.

The Schumann performance has also been issued in a coupling with the Dvorak Concerto. This has had high praise in some quarters, but I find it rather disappointing – Starker doesn’t seem to respond to the work very strongly, and Dorati’s conducting is not very idiomatic, with a really horrible speed-up at the end of the first movement. Of the great cellists of the later twentieth century and great nineteenth century concertos, it is Starker / LSO / Skrowaczewski for the Schumann, Fournier / BPO / Szell for the Dvorak.

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