VIEUXTEMPS Cello Concertos YSAŸE Meditation
The sixth volume of Hyperion’s ‘Romantic Cello Concerto’ series lights upon two works by the celebrated 19th-century Belgian violinist Henri Vieuxtemps. Championed here by Alban Gerhardt, the music shows that Vieuxtemps, perhaps more familiar through his seven violin concertos, possessed also a sensibility for the sonority, technical scope and colour spectrum of the cello. If the First Concerto of 1876 was apparently composed without any particular cellist in mind, the Second of a couple of years later was conceived for Joseph Servais (1850 85), whose father François (1807 66) was responsible for putting the Belgian cello school on the map much as Vieuxtemps did for the violin. If the two cello concertos are not perhaps as exploratory in terms of technique and structure as some of Vieuxtemps’s violin concertos, they certainly know their way round the cello and are characterised by strength of ideas, a supple expressiveness and a sure dramatic instinct. So much so that it is hard to see why they have not entered the mainstream repertoire in the same way as, say, the Saint-Saëns concertos have.
Heinrich Schiff made the first recording of the Vieuxtemps concertos back in the 1980s, since when nobody else seems to have risen to the challenge until now; but these performances by Gerhardt with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic under Josep Caballé-Domenech never fail to hold one’s attention. The fill-ups are by the Vieuxtemps pupil Eugène Ysaÿe – more cello music by a violinist but in the Méditation and Sérénade revealing a confident, alluring touch.