Johannes Moser

Elgar & Tchaikovsky

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"Das eine weint, das andere lacht," reads the title of the original German-language notes for this release by cellist Johannes Moser. "The one weeps, the other laughs." The English translation renders the phrase differently, but it's a good summation of the contents here: both of the major works on this album of cello-and-orchestra music are retrospective in different ways, but with each carrying a small seed of the other. Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, opens with a famous, choked, opera-like cello solo that seems to survey the wreckage of World War I. The work demands a certain passionate intensity (not the Yeats type!) that Moser supplies, paired with iron technical control. This he supplies in spades. For a long time the concerto was thought to be at the limits of playability, but Moser impresses with the fluency of everything he plays. This is true too in the Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33, of Tchaikovsky, a joyous piece of virtuoso Mozartiana that again really takes wing when you have a cellist like Moser who makes it sound easy. And yet there is a bit of melancholy lurking in this work, as well as a bit of merrie-olde-England pastoralism in Elgar (sample the slow movement to hear how Moser calmly switches gears). The Rococo Variations, the work with which Moser came on the scene with a silver medal at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, are played in their less common original version, and there are several nifty Tchaikovsky encore pieces. The venerable Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under early music specialist Andrew Manze puts Moser front and center, and keeps up with everything he does, and the whole group receives superb engineering support from the PentaTone team, working in Geneva's highly appropriate Victoria Hall. Highly recommended.

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