Ramon Jaffé / Daniel Raiskin

Dvorák: Youth Cello Concerto

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The story of how Antonin Dvorák complained about the cello ("at the top it is 'nasal,' and at the bottom it grumbles") and then turned around and wrote the most popular cello concerto in the classical repertory is well known. Less familiar is the fact that he wrote another entire concerto in 1865, as a 24-year-old, plus three other pieces for cello and orchestra that, as annotator Iosef Raiskin points out, almost make up a third concerto. Raiskin dubs these works a "cello necklace," and Latvian-German cellist Ramon Jaffé and the Rhine Philharmonic State Orchestra deserve credit for bringing them all together. The so-called "Youth Concerto" for cello and orchestra is the main attraction, and while it's not on the level of the great Cello Concerto in B minor, it qualifies as an unjustly neglected work. The composer's voice comes through in numerous melodic details (often in a tendency toward modal scales) even as the larger shapes are clearly derived from Schumann, Brahms, and even Wagner. Each of the three shorter works adeptly works the solo cello into a different kind of structure, and the Waldesruhe, Op. 68/5, is one of Dvorák's really lovely nature poems. Jaffé excels as a Dvorák interpreter, with a fine feel for the developing lyric spirit in the concerto. This is a very nice find for the Dvorák lover.

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