Sol Gabetta

Schumann

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Looking at the program here, you may not have been aware that Robert Schumann contributed so many works to the cello repertory. He didn't; the two central works were originally written for other instruments and are presented here in versions for cello and piano. Nevertheless, there is no hint of the program being scraped together. This is because Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta has assembled a group of mostly late Schumann works (the Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73, might be called transitional) that aren't terribly common, probably have never been heard together before, and offer all kinds of insight into the late Schumann style that heavily influenced the young Brahms. The contrapuntally dense Konzertstück für Cello und Orchester, Op. 129, generally rendered as Cello concerto in English, was one such work; it's a thorny work that Schumann's contemporaries wouldn't touch, but Brahms would later write concertos that would similarly be accused of not favoring the soloist enough, but that continued to rethink the concerto form. The work gets a fine performance here, influenced by historical-instrument readings, from Gabetta and the Kammerorchester Basel under Gabetta's frequent collaborator Giovanni Antonini. Sample the first movement for an idea of the clarity they bring to Schumann's gnarly textures. Of course, another periodic aspect of the Brahms style was an interest in folk-like melodies, and here that's anticipated by a very rarely heard Schumann work, the Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102 (Five Pieces in Folk Style). This one is worth the price on its own; the five works move progressively away from folk models, and really the work is unlike anything else in the repertory. The two middle works are played well enough by the cello, and all in all this is a fine, even revelatory Schumann recital even if the cello concerto, recorded two years earlier than the other pieces, seems to inhabit a different sonic world.

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