Christian Poltéra / Kathryn Stott

Dvorák: Silent Woods

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Antonín Dvorák famously complained about the sound of the cello, but if he had heard this album by Swiss-born cellist Christian Poltéra and his wonderfully sympathetic British accompanist Kathryn Stott, he might have written more for the instrument. Most of the music here was transcribed for cello and piano by Poltéra himself, with a couple of small Dvorák originals and two transcriptions by the composer rounding out the program. Poltéra has an extraordinary way with Dvorák's melodies, which require a distinctive kind of tempo flexibility: not full-fledged tempo rubato, but something of the caressing delivery of the café singer. The opening Sonatina in G major, Op. 100, originally for violin and piano, is worth the price of admission on its own, as Poltéra and Stott bring out the ingenious ways Dvorák boils down the language of the Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 ("From the New World"), and his other American works to a very concise format. Dvorák wrote this work for his teenage children but also suggested that adults "amuse themselves" with it; it's truly a small gem, and it receives the finest possible performance here. The balance of the album contains shorter original pieces, some fabulous song transcriptions, and two more substantial piece in Poltéra's renderings: the "Song to the Moon" from the opera Rusalka, and the title track, from a set of four-hand piano pieces from a set called From the Bohemian Woods, Op. 68. None of these pieces are exactly obscure, but they're not in common circulation, and each one shows what can be done when Dvorák gets a sympathetic interpreter. Add in fine (if perhaps in spots a bit too intimate) Super Audio sound from BIS, and it has an absolutely luxuriant hour of late Romantic music.

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