Johannes Moser

Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1; Britten: Cello Symphony

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Johannes Moser's performance on this album of modern works for cello and orchestra is impressive, as is the playing of WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln under the direction of Pietari Inkinen. The Shostakovich concerto is arguably the more accessible of the two works. It begins with no delay; the music cuts right to the chase with an agile, clean, bright cello line. The cello part is highly textured, with a fervent, impassioned melody and a turbulent feel. The orchestral accompaniment is also passionate, urgent, and engaging. The second movement is mysterious, moody, and dark, whereas the third movement cadenza (placed, oddly, not at the end) is simply exciting. Moser plays with so much vibrato and tension in the line that it keeps the listener on the edge of his or her seat. The final movement is full of high drama, a gloriously orchestrated cacophony in which each instrument plays its part perfectly and with precision in the rather atonal passages. Certainly, the quality of the 1694 Guarneri cello helps make the work so wonderful to hear, as is the clear and bright recording quality. Britten's Cello Symphony, Op. 68, may be more of an acquired taste, though the orchestra plays with incredible power and majesty, doing justice to the Allegro maestoso of the first movement. The music can tend to feel random, but out of the chaos comes order, and the tranquility of the cello is so enticing that one is drawn in. Moser plumbs the depths of the lower register fully, while the orchestra captures a wide variety of colors and moods in a most expressive manner. Britten proves himself to be a master of texture and effects in this very complex, difficult music. Moser's incredible bow technique is one of the highlights of the second movement. The listener can feel him slicing away at the tip, making rapid runs in the middle of the bow, and then virtually feel his singing legato. His fast passages with string crossings are played with perfect accuracy. A thunderous roll of drums begins the concluding movement, and the cello melody is moody yet enticing. Here, the lines are long and singing, and in the orchestra there are coordinating textures among all the strings. This movement is perhaps the most effective and accessible because the various musical elements work together and move forward so convincingly. Overall, Moser's artistry is not to be missed.

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