SCHUMANN Cello Concerto (Gabriel Schwabe)
The Spanish-German cellist Gabriel Schwabe offers what the booklet describes as Schumann’s ‘Complete Works for Cello’. In fact, all that and more, as two works are arrangements; and some of his loveliest music is here. Schumann himself had turned briefly to playing the cello when his dreams of a career as a pianist were punctured, and he understood the instrument as well as he understood the piano – and, it would appear, far better than he grasped the abilities of the violin.
Schwabe majors on the lyrical character of the Concerto, a work that invites the solo instrument to sing and dance as much as would Saint-Saëns’s A minor Concerto of 22 years later. In fact, Schwabe’s performance demonstrates more than many the kinship between the two works (and, of course, this cellist has recently made a disc of the later work which was much admired by Jeremy Nicholas – 1/18). The chamber dimensions of Lars Vogt’s Northern Sinfonia enable the cello to participate on a more level playing field than larger forces would allow, rather as the period instruments of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra similarly empowered Jean-Guihen Queyras – although the effect is of course very different. The two approaches complement one another and Schwabe’s concerto is just as persuasive on its own terms as Queyras’s.
The instrument Schwabe plays was made in Brescia in around 1600 – it’s inexplicably omitted from the cover photo – and its tone is ideally suited to the gentle Romanzen just as it is to the more playful Stücke im Volkston, and even works that fall in between, such as Schwabe’s arrangement of the Intermezzo from the collaborative FAE Sonata. A useful survey in near-ideal performances, finely recorded.