Born in the German Democratic Republic, cellist Jan Vogler had a flourishing career with Berlin Classics in the '90s before making the leap to the international Sony label with this 2004 disc featuring Richard Strauss' cello works. It was a brilliantly planned major-label debut. The program is aptly chosen: the well-known tone poem Don Quixote for cello and orchestra, the less well-known Sonata for cello and piano, and the nearly unknown Romance for cello and orchestra. And the accompanists are wholly appropriate. The Staatskapelle Dresden is one of the great German orchestras with a long association with Strauss' music, and with the addition of sympathetic conductor Fabio Luisi and virtuoso pianist Louis Lortie, the stage is superbly set for the soloist's appearance.
Vogler does not disappoint for the most part. With a beautiful tone, a supple bow, a graceful technique, and a winning way of phrasing, he makes Strauss' music come vividly to life in Don Quixote. At his best, Vogler's cello sounds almost like a baritone in its subtle expressivity, and the melting tenderness of his tone in the Finale is touching. However, for all its beauty Vogler's tone does not always project above his accompanists in loud passages. Though conductor Luisi draws restrained playing from the Dresden orchestra, it still swamps Vogler in tuttis and a less reserved Lortie nearly runs over Vogler in the sonata's outer movements. To a certain extent, this could be the fault of the engineers. But whatever the cause and no matter how exquisite most of the playing is here, the difficulty of making out the cello in fortes and climaxes diminishes the overall success of this disc.