Nicolas Altstaedt

Nicolas Altstaedt plays Schumann, Tchaïkovsky & Gulda

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Schumann, Tchaikovsky, and… Friedrich Gulda? An odd combination of composers to be sure, and one unlikely to be found juxtaposed on many other cello-centered albums. Yet for young cellist Nicolas Altstaedt (only 26 at the time of recording), the diverse program serves him well and allows him to display his abilities interpreting a broad range of repertoire. Schumann's A minor Concerto opens the program. Altstaedt has considerable technical prowess on his instrument, more than adequate to toss off the sometimes lofty demands Schumann places on cellists as easily as if he were playing a scale. While he plays with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, his right arm never seems to dig deeply into the string, particularly the G and C strings. Altstaedt also seems to enjoy playing with the tempo and flow of rhythm; this may be more acceptable if he didn't sometimes leave his orchestral companions in the dust as they clamber to stay in time with him. Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations play more to Altstaedt's strengths. His more airy, over-the-string sound matches perfectly with Tchaikovsky's delicate writing and rhythms, and the rhythmic freedom with which he plays seems more controlled and appropriate here. The final work on the program, Gulda's Concerto for Cello and Wind Band, is quite outside-the-box. The quasi-jazz sense of the first movement can, on first hearing, sound like a mockery. The remaining four movements, however, guide listeners through a tour of different musical styles and time periods. It even has an entire cadenza movement, much like Shostakovich's First Concerto, and is an ideal demonstration of Altstaedt's considerable technical prowess. Of the three works on his program, Altstaedt seems most at home and convincing with Gulda, perhaps because he has far fewer recordings with which to compete.

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