This album confronts the listener over more than one hour with concentrated cello play embedded in orchestra landscape. Two war horses of the rather modest number of cello concertos, the Elgar Concerto and the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations by the Russian are called up together with some encores of the Russian composer. Whereas the interpretation of the Elgar concerto by Jacqueline du Pré from the 1960s dominated the market of analogue recordings for decades unrivaled, the scene has noticeably changed starting with the age of digital downloads - not concerning the interpretation, but in any case, as far as the number of available recordings is concerned. While the Elgar concert in the time of du Pré was still a technical challenge, it belongs nowadays, to exaggerate, to the standard repertoire of the cello trainees. During the decades, the competency in playing technology obviously has grown in general, including among pianists and violinists. However, by no means is not the case concerning the competence of interpretation. To adjust oneself as a lister, it is recommendable to consult older recordings from time to time.
Before we start with listen, where the cellist of this album ranks performance wise and interpretatively, to say a word about Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations, presented here in the original version without the usual retouches of the premiering cellist and with the originally designed order of the movements: The by and large relatively cheerful and playful mood of this work forms a welcome antithesis to the essentially melancholic, introverted mood of the Elgar cello concerto. Tragically, Tchaikovsky, in sharp contrast to the positive mood of the variations, had just crossed a valley of profound despair, in which one would have rather expected a requiem from his pen than this radiant, bright, confident emanation of a “cello concerto” well-concealed as variations.
Johannes Moser belongs to the generation of successful young cellists demanded all over the world by the concert organizers and labels. For the Elgar concerto, he finds an approach which can be described as fully successful. Without ever having to crush the melancholy of the concerto, which is predominantly present in the first two movements, and which is at least shining though in the optimistic third movement, by an exaggeratedly thickened sound, the precisely appropriate mood develops from the easiness of the tone of the solo instrument. With this recording of the Elgar Concerto, Johannes Moser provides a serious alternative to the recording of Jacqueline du Pré, which is less tonic and sentimental, but despite all elegance just as deeply felt, without ever going into the otherwise usual kitschy presentation. This to some extent light-footed approach also commands the Tchaikovsky variations. This is accompanied by lots of wit combined with considerable virtuosity. In a highly-relaxed atmosphere, the listener gladly follows the varied journey through the wonderland of Tchaikovsky’s Rokoko Variations, and finally enjoys the "encores", the Nocturne, the Andante Cantabile and the Pezzo Capriccioso, deliciously served out of the Russian’s master hand.
Johannes Moser is accompanied by the OSR under the direction of the British Andrew Manze, whose career is rooted in the old music scene, where he has made a sensation as a violinist, among others as a concertmaster in Ton Koopmans Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. At the beginning of the new millennium, he increasingly exchanged the violin bow against the conductor's baton, taking over the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, and later Trevor Pinnock’s English Consort, currently heading the NDR Radiophilharmonie in Hannover. Under Andrew Manze, the OSR frees up of Elgar's lifeblood, but also the elegance necessary for Tchaikovsky's cello orchestras. The ever bright and transparent, finely shining sound of this orchestra bound to the clarté of French orchestras perfectly complements the soloist's tonality lacking severity. The result is a more than one hour of orchestral cello bliss, which one would not want to miss any more.
Johannes Moser, cello
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Andrew Manze, conductor