Wendy Warner / Drostan Hall / Camerata Chicago

Haydn & Myslivecek: Cello Concertos

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Few would pick Haydn's two cello concertos as his greatest works, but there is still no shortage of the pair, thought to be the survivors of a much larger group. This one, from Chicago's enterprising Cedille label, has several things to recommend it. One is the presence of the Cello Concerto in C major by Josef Myslivecek, composed in the late 1770s. Myslivecek was admired by Mozart, who was famously stingy with admiration, but the two eventually had a falling-out, probably over an opera commission that Myslivecek promised but did not deliver. His concerto postdated the first Haydn piece and may have been influenced by it; its instrumentation is identical. Its chromatic, rather intense slow movement is unusual, and in general the work is underplayed. The two Haydn concertos are also a bit unusual. American cellist Wendy Warner uses a bow from the early 19th century, and the Camerata Chicago is a small-to-midsized group at 25 players. But Warner, who plays some gigantic cadenzas, is a big Romantic cellist in the mold of her onetime teacher, Mstislav Rostropovich. The combination is unfamiliar but refreshing, and Warner and conductor Drostan Hall carry it off well, with careful balances. The focus is squarely on Warner, who is a very exciting player; even in this rather decorous music, her playing is full of lively little surges and surprises that keep the long outer movements going. The sound, recorded at a large church in exurban Wheaton, Illinois, is unspectacular, but this is a recommended recording for those who like Classical-era concertos done in the old concert-hall-sized way.

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