Han-Na Chang

Vivaldi: Cello Concertos

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Young cellist Han-Na Chang, Korean-born and trained in the U.S. by Mstislav Rostropovich, is a newcomer to Baroque music, having released a mixture of cello classics and late-Romantic and contemporary concertos up to this time. Here she delivers a set of seven Vivaldi cello concertos that Rostropovich himself might have helped her shape; it's something of a throwback to the way Vivaldi was played 30 or 40 years ago. As long as you're OK with that, there's a lot to enjoy here. The opening passages of the very first work on the program, the Cello Concerto in A minor, RV 420, give you an idea of what to expect from the whole: in most of the opening movements, Chang stresses long melodic lines, played lyrically enough that you can, without too much trouble, imagine that you're in the middle of one of Tchaikovsky's neo-classic pieces. The slow movements are laden with sentiment. In the middle movement of the Cello Concerto in C minor, RV 401, Chang takes plenty of time in some very dramatic phrasing. Maximum contrast comes in the finales, which contain plenty of technical challenges that Chang surmounts with elan. This release might be compared with violinist Janine Jansen's recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons as an arch-Romantic treatment of Baroque music by a very charismatic young performer. It's somewhat different in flavor, however; Chang doesn't play as fast and loose with the tempo as Jansen does, and she works more closely in concert with her orchestra; the London Chamber Orchestra under Christopher Warren-Green works out lines that intelligently fit Chang's phrasing even if one wishes at times that the soloist had the stage a bit more completely to herself. The sound, from the venerable Abbey Road studio, is clear and well suited to the disc's rather pop emotionalism. Sample well, but also give it a chance; the slow movements, especially, grow into hypnotic worlds if you give yourself over to them.

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