This historical release presents a trio of performances by Israeli-born Canadian cellist Ofra Harnoy, recorded in 1983 and 1984. This was shortly after her emergence, with quite a splash, in a series of 1982 appeareances in New York. It is unclear under what circumstances the recordings were made, something undesirable in a historical release. She was apparently the first to record the Cello Concerto of Jacques Offenbach, a genial work with plenty of the composer's popular dance-influenced melodic idiom. The Rococo Variations for cello and orchestra, Op. 33, are perhaps the work that best brought out Harnoy's youthful talents at this place; in them she combined accuracy in difficult passagework with a warm lyrical idiom giving no hint that the player was not yet 20 years old. The Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33, was also well-suited to Harnoy's basically melodic approach. The last two works are accompanied by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra from British Columbia's Vancouver Islands, a regional ensemble that plays its heart out under the baton of veteran conductor Paul Freeman. The Offenbach features the more prestigious Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under longtime Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel. A rather mysterious item, but worth hearing for Harnoy fans; it's an early example of her lovely melodic idiom.
Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations; Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1; Offenbach: Cello Concerto Review
by James Manheim