DVOŘÁK Cello Concertos
Readers who, like me, grew up with the great Miloš Sádlo’s Supraphon recording of Dvořák’s early, unorchestrated A major Concerto in the completion by Jarmil Burghauser will be in for a surprise here. Steven Isserlis has opted instead to champion the rather more radical overhaul by the German figure Günter Raphael (1903-60), who in the 1920s discovered the manuscript that had long since disappeared with its original dedicatee, the cellist Ludevít Peer. Raphael’s scoring has perhaps not quite the idiomatic tang of Burghauser’s but the work’s prodigal melodic fecundity, unfettered joy and youthful vigour emerge unscathed, especially when Isserlis performs it with such burning conviction.
As for Dvořák’s towering Op 104, Isserlis is on spellbindingly eloquent form in an entrancingly poetic and urgently communicative reading that really does sound like it’s being captured on the wing. With his impregnable technical address, sublimely articulate passagework and characteristically mellow, gorgeously singing tone, Isserlis brings to this masterpiece a recreative spark, tumbling fantasy and emotional candour as nourishing as it is touchingly unforced. Happily, Daniel Harding and the Mahler CO are with him every step of the way; theirs is a real, breathing collaboration, with the slow movement in particular distilling a memorably wistful intimacy. Granted, the Beckmesser within me could take issue with some lack of sheer heft and transparency in the biggest orchestral tuttis (I need to hear more of the trumpets in the work’s blazing B major peroration), but such is the abundance of spontaneity, spirit and imagination on show that it seems churlish to complain.
The concerto is followed by an orchestral transcription of Dvořák’s 1887-88 song ‘Lasst mich allein’ (‘Leave me alone’), Op 82 No 1, whose subsequent incorporation into the slow movement and finale reflects the composer’s grievous sense of loss following the death of his sister-in-law and first love, Josefina Kaunitzová (the song was apparently very dear to her). Lastly, we even get to hear Dvořák’s ’s first thoughts for the concerto’s culmination, which, shorn of those achingly poignant reminiscences he added later, sounds oddly perfunctory now. Isserlis himself contributes a highly personable and informative booklet essay. Don’t miss this special release.