Edgar Moreau

Offenbach, Gulda: Cello Concertos

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The young French cellist Edgar Moreau merits praise right off the bat for his unusual program here: both of these concertos will be unfamiliar to most listeners, and both are a great deal of fun. The eclipse of Jacques Offenbach's Grand Concerto in G major ("Concerto militaire") can be blamed on the fact that the work was butchered in publication and has only recently been restored to the form intended by the composer. It is a brilliant virtuoso work (Offenbach in his youth was called the Paganini of the cello), and Moreau captures well its mixture of blistering speed and humor. The work predates Offenbach's well-known operettas, but it's full of operetta-like tunes. Sample the blistering finale, which is like a miniature three-movement concerto in itself: Moreau shows a good deal of flair here. The slow movement is a gorgeous piece of limpid melody. The pianist Friedrich Gulda is well known for his combination of classical music and jazz in his performing career, but his compositions, which arguably do the same thing in a more original way, are less familiar. The Concerto for cello, wind orchestra, and band, Op. 129, recorded here contrasts jazz rhythms in the fast themes in its first-movement Overture with straight downbeats in its lyrical second subject. Taking off from there, the work refers to rock, various classical styles, and a rousing polka to conclude. It does not give a feeling of blank pastiche but rather of an organic connection between its various parts, and Moreau interacts well with the members of the cleverly named orchestra Les Forces Majeures, who have a lot to do in the concertante texture. Erato's sound is rather boxy here, but this is a thoroughly delightful pick.

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