Glorious Haydn, Introspective Schumann
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 09/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a fascinating juxtaposition! Haydn's Cello Concertos are the very paradigm of Classical era grace and beauty. First he invented these Classical musical forms, and then he perfected them. We are grateful to an alert music librarian in Prague for rediscovering the missing Cello Concerto in C in 1961. Haydn noted down the main theme of the concerto in his catalogue of works in 1765. It remained lost for nearly two centuries. The Concerto in C is the more Rococco flavored of the two extant Cello Concertos. It is the musical equivalent of a painting by Boucher: great beauty and formal perfection but a little light in depth. I find it's surface beauty more than sufficient for enjoyment. Maisky captures Haydn's new (for the 1760's) homophonic textures in his conducting, emphasizing the work's surface sheen and formal perfection. His cello technique is lithe, playful, relatively vibrato free and captures Haydn's long-lined melodies beautifully with an elegant, songlike legato. All of the Haydn was recorded in a Viennese Schloss or Castle (Schloss Hetzendorf); the sound is resplendent with a satiny sheen.
We have the autograph manuscript for the Concerto in D, dated 1783. This is a mature work, more voluble and less formally perfect, it's not as tightly constructed as its companion concerto. It is no less tuneful, however, with Haydn's musical friendship with Mozart now paying dividends, especially in the splendid Mozartean Rondo that ends the piece. There is greater emotional ambiguity here, another Mozartean trait, with a few moments of comparative darkness. Maisky conducts lightly, stepping out of the way of the Wiener Symphoniker. He continues his lithe, tuneful playing. This is a splendid, utterly charming performance.
Maisky transcribed the Adagio from Haydn's Violin Concerto in C Major and the Violin Concerto in G Major so that they can be played on the Cello. The works are vintage Haydn: graceful and filled with beautiful passages. Maisky has made only nominal changes, leaving the orchestration alone. They are convincing as cello works, though not as memorable as the 2 Cello Concertos. Still, the Violin Concerto in G Major is quite Mozartean and very beautiful. You may be surprised how well these transcriptions work.
Finally, the Schumann Cello Concerto in A minor op.129. Composed in 1850, this is an arch-Romantic work made even more so as conducted by Leonard Bernstein with the splendid Vienna Philharmonic. Bernstein brings out the beauty and darkness of this bitter fruit of the onset of Schumann's mental collapse. It is a great performance. Maisky's playing is fiery and forceful. Tough-minded Romanticism! The sound is superb in DTS 5.1 or PCM stereo. The disc lasts 100 minutes, has a region code 0 worldwide and the usual menus, languages and trailers from DGG. It was recorded in 1985 (Schumann) and 1987 (Haydn).
The Haydn concertos on this disc will charm you. The Schumann will deepen the musical experience still further. This is a disc worth investing in. Strongly recommended.