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A Superb, Comprehensive and Economical Dvorak Album
on 25 April 2014
This new Dvorak Album released on a CD in 2013, Catalogue No CDA67917, is recorded in DDD and contains eight tracks recording Dvoraks' two cello concertos, the A Major No 1 and the B Minor No 2. Also included is the original ending of the B Minor Cello Concerto and a short piece for cello and orchestra, Lasst mich allein Op 82 No 1, composed in 1888. The new album which was recorded in Italy in 2012 was made in France and released on the Hyperion label. The album features a superb performance from the English cellist, Steven Isserlis, with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding. I found the included booklet written by Steven Isserlis especially interesting and informative and is written in English, French, and German.
Steven Isserlis who was born in 1958 has produced magnificent performances of all pieces recorded. The two cello concertos are absolute masterpieces. The B minor cello concerto which chronologically is second is arguably the most
popular cello concerto ever written. I have numerous performances of this magnificient piece both on CD and DVD with soloists such as Fournier, Rostropovich, Du Prey, Sadlo amongst others and I can honestly say Isserlis's performance is right up there amongst those other world renowned performances.
I think it is important to focus for a moment on the two concertos. The A Major Cello Concerto No 1 was composed by Dvorak in 1865 with the cello accompanied by a piano taking the place of the orchestra. It lasts almost an hour. The orchestration of the A Major Concerto came later firstly by the German composer Gunter Raphael in the mid 1920's. This rendition is somewhat freer with the intended hope that it would be closer to what Dvorak may have written had he returned to it for completion. It should be noted that the manuscript of the A Major Cello Concerto eventually found its way via Germany into the British Museum. It was was first performed in Prague on the 28 March 1930 under the direction of George Szell.
The other version of the A Major Cello Concerto with which I am familiar was orchestrated by Jamil Burghauser in 1975. This rendition follows closely Dvorak's original piano composition. It was recorded in September,1976 in Prague and released on the Czech Supraphon label. The two issues of the recording I own have publication dates of 1988 and 2001. The Catalogue No is SU 3564- 011 for the 2001 issue and Order No 11 0631-2 011 for the 1988 issue. The cellist is Milos Sadlo with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vaclav Neumann. The famous B Minor Cello Concerto Op 104 is also recorded on this disc featuring the same artist, conductor and orchestra just mentioned.
I was in Prague in 2006 and eventually found my way to the Dvorak Museum where I purchased what I hoped to be the complete set of Dvorak's works. Unfortunately this set did not include the A Major Concerto which was a great pity. I live for the day that this great A Major Concerto is performed live and hopefully in The Sydney Opera House. I believe the Isserlis recording of the A Major concerto to be almost as good as his B Minor Concerto which will be a treat in store for all those who have yet to hear this great album and who love cello concertos.
I have rated the disc with five stars on the basis of its excellent performance, its extra recorded inclusions and the really informative booklet included.
R. Neville Pollard.