Elgar Cello Concerto; Arrangements for Cello and Orchestra
As Natalie Clein said in her Gramophone interview (9/07), she hopes that in her recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto “some of my passion for the piece comes out”. It certainly does, abundantly, in all four movements. Yet curiously, direct comparisons reveal that her reading, so far from rejecting the example of Jacqueline du Pré, is closer to it than it is to the more objective versions for which she expresses her greatest admiration, those of Steven Isserlis and Beatrice Harrison in the recording with the composer.
Where Clein departs radically from the du Pré example (as do all other current versions) is in the slow epilogue, where du Pré’s expansiveness goes to extremes, and to a degree in the slow movement too. Otherwise Clein’s rubato is as free as that of du Pré and the vibrato just as marked, the expression of comparable passion which marks out her reading.
Her speeds in the first two movements, too, are remarkably close to those of du Pré. For that I am gladdened, for I contest Clein’s suggestion that the du Pré version has come to be regarded as definitive. It is simply the most popular version, the one which above all transformed our ideas of the work. This then offers a splendid follow-up to EMI’s long-established best-seller, and includes a nicely devised Elgar fill-up in cello versions of six favourite pieces, most arranged from violin originals, although the Romance was conceived with a bassoon as soloist, and In Moonlight is a transcription of the lovely viola solo in the overture In the South. Clein brings to all these pieces a comparable warmth to that in the Concerto, and deeply expressive playing without in any way being self-indulgent.
She is helped by wonderfully refined sound, which brings out the subtlety of her control of pianissimi, with clear and transparent orchestral accompaniment, in which Vernon Handley is an ideal, idiomatic accompanist.