In this refreshing and challenging juxtaposition of two works from the last century for cello and orchestra cellist Johannes Moser takes risks. Both works were written for and dedicated to a famous cellist and which have to this juncture remained the associated with that dedicatee. All that has now changed in that Moser's brilliant interpretations of these fiendishly difficult works are completely compelling. He is accompanied by the West German Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pietari Inkinen: it is a fine partnership.
First, The Cello Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major, Opus 107, was composed in 1959 by Dmitri Shostakovich. He wrote the work for his friend Mstislav Rostropovich, who committed it to memory in four days and gave the premiere on October 4, 1959, with Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra in the Large Hall of the Leningrad Conservatory. The work has four movements in two sections, with movements two through four played without a pause: Allegretto, Moderato, Cadenza - Attacca. This, Shostakovich's first cello concerto is widely considered to be one of the most difficult concerted works for cello, along with the Sinfonia Concertante of Sergei Prokofiev, with which it shares certain features (such as the prominent role of isolated timpani strokes). Shostakovich said that "an impulse" for the piece was provided by his admiration for that earlier work.
The Symphony for Cello and Orchestra or Cello Symphony Op. 68 was written in 1963 by the British composer Benjamin Britten. He, too, dedicated the work to Mstislav Rostropovich, who gave the work its premiere in Moscow with the composer and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra on March 12, 1964. The work's title reflects the music's more even balance between soloist and orchestra than in the traditional concerto format. The piece is in the four-movement structure typical of a symphony, but the final two movements are linked by a cello cadenza: Allegro maestoso, Presto inquieto, Adagio - cadenza ad lib, Passacaglia: Andante allegro.
Johannes Moser not only possess the technical facility to make these work accessible and even seem rather comfortable to play, but he also manages to fine the beauty of line in the quieter moments as well as facing the exploding movements create such a force of nature that the affect n the listener is almost overwhelming. This is cello performance at its finest form one of today's most outstanding artists of this instrument. Grady Harp, February 12