Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Dvořák, Gallay | Classical music reviews, news & interviews
Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Dvořák, Gallay
Solo works for cello and horn alongside two delectable symphonies
Bach: The Six Cello Suites Peter Wispelwey (Evil Penguin Records)
Bach’ s Cello Suites remained stubbornly off-limits to me until I read Eric Siblin’s affectionate, rambling book, The Cello Suites: In Search of a Baroque Masterpiece. I’m now a convert; after overdosing on thick orchestral sludge we all need a palate cleanser, and these six solo suites do the job beautifully. Like many, I got to know these works through Pierre Fournier’s elegant 1960s cycle. You soon find yourself acquiring, imperceptibly, other sets. You won't get bored of hearing this music. Dutch cellist Peter Wispelwey’s third recording was made to celebrate his 50th birthday, and it offers a glorious contrast. The playing is exquisite, and the combination of a warm, close-up recording and Wispelwey’s’s decision to tune his baroque cello to a lower pitch (A=392) gives the suites an appealing, earthy gruffness.The point is made forcefully in the accompanying DVD, where the charismatic, enthusiastic Wispelwey shows us how differently the same passages can sound when pitched differently.
This is the best "making-of" DVD I’ve seen – scholarly, entertaining and visually appealing. It also makes one wish that the Oxford live performances which accompanied these CDs could be issued in some form. Wispelwey’s approach makes for compelling listening. In his words, with looser, thicker strings, “their speech is even more characterful… having removed myself from the comfort and smoothness of the modern cello gave the sensation of entering rooms that I hadn’t been in before.” There’s a daring expressiveness on display, along with several tempo choices which might alarm traditionalists. They should watch the DVD first, and all will make sense. Sound and production are excellent. The record label, charmingly if inexplicably, is called Evil Penguin.
Watch Peter Wispelwey play Bach:
Dvořák: Symphonies 3 and 6 Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/José Serebrier (Warner)
José Serebrier’s Dvořák cycle hasn’t disappointed so far. These two symphonies are seldom heard in concert, and the competition on CD is consequently less fierce. Their prevailing sunniness can seem disquieting – most of the weighty late-romantic symphonies are grand statements in minor keys. Dvořák’s Sixth is a large-scale work in unruffled D major. It begins in beguiling fashion, with rising fourths in low strings launching music which swings with unforced elegance. Serebrier keeps the triple time rhythms buoyant and alert, never letting the textures muddy. This is seriously lovely stuff – a radiant Adagio is followed by a Scherzo which couldn’t come from the pen of any other composer, and a Finale which wraps things up in brassy style. The orchestral playing is beyond reproach – limpid wind solos and plenty of warmth in the lower string sound.
Dvořák’s 3rd is rarer still, a three-movement work in E flat, starting with another triple time movement. Its catchiest thematic idea is disarmingly bare, a simple descending scalic figure manipulated, rescored, reharmonised in all manner of ways, recalling Brahms. The middle movement’s loud climax, all brass chorales and swirling harp, suggests Das Rheingold, while always sounding like Dvořák. We all enjoy discovering music we’ve not heard by composers we’re fond of, and there’s so much more to Dvořák than the New World Symphony and the Cello Concerto, good though they are. This is very, very impressive.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more Classical music
Five-work marathon showcases exceptional pianists and the less familiar specimens
Bliss’s personal war requiem in Hereford Cathedral
Utopian music-making led by the Järvi family in Estonia's magical summer town
Ravishing orchestral playing in Boulez and Holst, superb control from the Finnish conductor
Young Israeli pianist aims big, with intelligence to spare, in Ligeti, Rameau and Schubert
Triumphant end to a four-year pilgrimage thrills Proms audience
The Norwegian pianist's marvellous musicianship deserved a larger audience
Sublime viol music, introspective pianism and a lively chamber disc
Light and air fill the Royal Albert Hall in Beethoven, but Stravinsky needs to dance
Michael Symmons Roberts introduces a project to respond to Messiaen through poetry and painting; we also publish one of his poems
Period specialists' superb account of Cheryl Frances-Hoad's ravishing world premiere overshadows Tallis
Norway's premier pianist on Beethoven, elevator music, conducting from the piano and being big in Korea