Alban Gerhardt

The Romantic Cello Concerto, Vol. 2

(CD - Hyperion #CDA67583)

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How many mediocre German Romantic cello concertos in a row can anyone listen to? That is the inescapable question posed by the second volume in Hyperion's the Romantic Cello Concerto series. Aside from Robert Schumann, the composers here vie for who's the most obscure: Robert Volkmann, Albert Dietrich or Friedrich Gernsheim. While Gernsheim may win that contest -- Volkmann's Piano Trio was praised by Wagner and championed by Liszt and Dietrich's Allegro was included as the opening movement of the "F.A.E." Violin Sonata co-written with Brahms and Schumann but Gernsheim's music like his name have all but faded from the minds of music lovers -- all three composers turned out cello concertos of immense mediocrity. Volkmann's four-movements-in-one A minor Concerto exhausts its inventiveness in its form; its themes are undistinguished and its harmonies are quite conservative. Dietrich's three-movement G minor Concerto has pleasant if quickly forgettable tunes and earnest if easily ignorable themes. Gernsheim three-movements-played-attaca E minor Concerto has much more emotional intensity then formal cohesion and the music sprawls more than grows. Schumann's late A minor Concerto rounds out the program, and while it's clearly the best work here -- with its vague sentiments, lumbering forms, and thick scoring -- it's likewise clearly Schumann at less than his best. Cellist Alban Gerhardt is a skillful and enthusiastic soloist and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Hannu Lintu contribute ample and sympathetic support, but their best efforts can't make this music memorable. Recorded in the venerable Jesus-Chrisus-Kirche in Berlin, scene of many classic DG recordings, Hyperion's digital is rich, deep, clear, and warm.

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