Cellists bemoaning the lack of solo repertory for their instrument might check out this release of music by Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, one of the best-known cellists of the late 19th century. He moved to Moscow and became the dedicatee of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra, Op. 33. He also revised the work, discarding one variation and reordering the rest; this was a good deal more than Tchaikovsky had asked him to do, and his work was questioned in Tchaikovsky's own time. Nevertheless, the Fitzenhagen version of the work, heard here, remains the most commonly heard one today, and the question of whether he did Tchaikovsky a service remains an open one. The work gets an energetic performance from cellist Alban Gerhardt and the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Stefan Blunier, but more interesting perhaps are the Fitzenhagen originals on the program. He was apparently a self-taught composer, but the two cello concertos heard here combine absolutely idiomatic instrumental writing with compact, well-shaped forms defined by distinctive melodies. Either could profitably be combined with Schumann's or Dvorák's cello concertos in concert, and the two shorter works that round out the album have beautiful writing as well, combining the solo cello with small groups of winds. Recommended for anyone even slightly interested in Romantic music for the cello.
The Romantic Cello Concerto, Vol. 7: Fitzenhagen, Tchaikovsky
Alban Gerhardt / Stefan Blunier / Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
(CD - Hyperion #CDA 68063)