20th Century Works for Solo Cello

A former Principal Cellist in Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonic offers a mixed programme of twentieth-century works for solo cello

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

20th Century Works for Solo Cello

  • Sonata for Cello
  • Suite
  • Ciaccona, intermezzo e adagio
  • Sonata for Cello
  • Serenade
  • Ghirlarzana
  • Sacher Variation
  • Solo
  • Und Salamo sprach ...

Wolfgang Boettcher, now in his sixties, brings a wealth of experience to this unhackneyed programme: and, although he is no young firebrand, his accounts of the Hindemith and Ligeti sonatas are at least as forceful and as fresh in style as those of his main rival in this repertory, Pieter Wispelwey.
Like Wispelwey, Boettcher doesn’t exactly offer us a string of masterworks. The dud here (for me) is Krenek’s Suite, proving how stiff and stolid his music had become by 1939. Aribert Reimann’s Solo is also rather thinly spread, and overdoes the idea of increasingly agitated dialogue between the upper and lower reaches of the instrument. But everything else, from Ibert’s brief, surprisingly plaintive Ghirlarzana to the grandly dramatic trilogy by Dallapiccola, is well worth hearing. This last mighty, and mightily difficult, work receives a performance as fully rounded and alert to all aspects of the score as any I’ve heard.
Boettcher is no less convincing in the flow and fantasy of Henze’s early Serenade, where the Nimbus recording - excellent throughout - ensures that we hear the many refinements of tone and timbre on offer in this performance. The other novelty - Kirchner’s Und Salamo sprach ... (1987) has a subject (‘all is vanity’) implying an element of melancholic reflection. The main strength here is the avoidance of monotony, and in the recital as a whole there is more than enough liveliness (Hindemith) and even good humour (Ligeti, Lutosyawski) to ensure that the listener should not be left in too sombre a frame of mind at the end.'

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