Performer: Pieter Wispelwey
Orchestra: Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Jeffrey Tate
Composer: William Walton, Ernest Bloch, Gyorgy Ligeti, Benjamin Britten
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Onyx Classics
Size: 288 MB
01-03 Walton – Cello Concerto
04-07 Bloch – Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello
08-09 Ligeti – Sonata for Solo Cello
10 Walton – Passacaglia for Solo Cello
11 Britten – Cello Suite No. 2, Op. 80 – Ciaccona
Superb interpretation of rarely performed works
Walton’s concerto was commissioned by Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, whose reputation as a performer was such that he inspired works by no less than Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Hindemith. Though the concerto was not very well received by critics following its first performance, it is probably the result of Walton’s singular aesthetic sensibility and place- perceived as an old-fashioned Romanticism in the post-war period.
Listening to this concerto, it’s hard to imagine it being qualified as Romantic but if one equates deep introspection and forceful syncopation with Romanticism then Walton’s music is Romantic indeed. The concerto is void of self-conscious or contrived drama and sounds utterly modern to my (unprofessional) ears. Pieter Wispelwey beautifully states: “While the work has a great variety of moods, some of them pretty dark, to me its essence is represented by that opening melody and the theme of the finale, both slightly exotic and strangely beautiful. They are, forgetting the albatross for a moment, like two rare musical orchids, one symbolizing promise and dawn, the other night and solitude.”
Wispelwey’s performance effortlessly shifts through the strong rhythmic passages and the moments of serenity called for by Walton’s composition. The recording also includes three compositions for solo cello: Bloch’s Suite no. 1, Ligeti’s Sonata for solo cello, and Walton’s Passacaglia. The CD is book-ended with Britten’s Ciaccona (Cello suite no. 2, op.80) which will clearly establish why Wispelwey is considered one of the foremost Britten interpreters.
Ligeti’s Sonata sounded disjointed to me but I am not an expert and find Ligeti’s work “difficult” to absorb. The quality of the recording is flawless as is the Sydney Symphony conducted by Jeffrey Tate. Wispelwey plays his 1968 Stradivarius ‘Magg’.