Given the propensity of cellists and cello lovers to bemoan the lack of solo repertory for the cello, it's a bit odd that these four works by composers who specialized in virtuoso violin repertory don't get dusted off and played more often. Both composers were perfectly capable of transferring their musical language to the cello, and all the pieces have difficult but suave and idiomatic cello parts. The Cello Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 50, of Henri Vieuxtemps is probably the stronger of his pair of concertos for the instrument. Vieuxtemps wrote the work in Algiers, where he had gone to recuperate from a stroke, and though it dates from near the end of his life it is overflowing with invention (check out the accompanied cadenza at the end of the opening movement) and boasts a blistering finale for the cellist. The earlier Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 46, has a highly melodic first movement, but perhaps less structural clarity than it needs; it may be that the later neglect of this work was due to its not being able to live up to its initial celebrity. The two shorter pieces by Ysäye are exercises in gorgeous melody, not technical tours de force like the composer's unaccompanied violin pieces, and they're easy on the ears in this performance by cellist Alban Gerhardt and the Royal Flemish Philharmonic under Catalan conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech. This makes one want to hear more from Hyperion's new series of Romantic-era cello concertos.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 46|
|Cello Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 50|