MARTINŮ; HINDEMITH; HONEGGER Cello Concertos

Three of the finest 20th-century cello concertos in fascinating juxtaposition

Author: 
Guy Rickards

MARTINŮ;HINDEMITH;HONEGGER Cello Concertos

  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 1
  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

The most popular modern cello concertos tend to be lyric-dramatic, works that appear to tell a story, such as Elgar’s, Shostakovich’s First, Myaskovsky’s. The three works performed here by Johannes Moser have their roots in more Classical models, their expressive purpose arising from but in balance with their architectural-structural concerns.

Honegger’s Concerto (1929) is the earliest and by some way briefest of the three. Its winning opening lyrical idea recurs at key points, providing thematic unity. Martinu’s First Concerto followed a year later but was twice revised (1939 and 1955). Like Hindemith’s (1940), its three-movement format is more traditional in ethos, fast-slow-fast, and the heart of both lies in their central slow spans. Both are more complex than they at first seem.

Moser’s playing is technically adroit and he has audibly tuned in to each composer’s idiom. From his brief introductory note it is clear he sympathises with their individuality of approach and refusal to kowtow to serialism, though their example was followed by rather more creators than he gives credit for. The grouping is a revealing one none the less and Moser’s accounts are competitive without being first choices. His lightness, at times thinness, of tone is a disadvantage, cf Poltéra’s Honegger. Wallfisch with Yan Pascal Tortelier is peerless among modern interpreters in the Martinu and I prefer him also in the Hindemith (though Paul Tortelier remains my top choice). Geringas’s programme of all three Hindemith concertos has obvious appeal but Moser’s has a more focused context. Hänssler’s fine sound makes this an attractive alternative version for all three works.

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