Monday, April 06, 2009

Dvořák & Herbert Cello Concertos – Gautier Capuçon & Paavo Järvi

A Review by Ben Hogwood

The CD being reviewed is a Virgin Classics recording of the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra under Paavo Jarvi with Guatier Capucon on cello.

The repertoire is the Dvorak Cello Concerto in B Minor and the Herbert Cello Concerto in E Minor
Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904) and Victor Herbert (1859-1924) were friends, having met in New York – and the orchestration of the latter's Second Cello Concerto influenced its rather more famous cousin. That isn't the only common factor between the two pieces (and the disc plays for four minutes longer than the presentation suggests), with both featuring a bold statement of intent when the solo instrument enters, and both share an abundance of melodic interest.
That Herbert's Second Cello Concerto is barely half the length of Dvořák's matters not at all – it is a most attractive work, given a spring in its step by Paavo Järvi's incisive conducting. The downward sweep of its principal melody is perfectly accented by Gautier Capuçon, who also ornaments the slow movement theme tastefully. By adding a bit of weight to the lower strings' pizzicato, Järvi ensures the dance-like atmosphere is retained, the cello singing above. Particularly effective is the floated ending, Capuçon's cello weightless on a high B above the orchestra.

The start of the shorter finale is the only point where Herbert's invention falters, but Capuçon continues a strong thematic projection so that by the time the attractive and humorous second idea arrives, parity has been restored in a flurry of arpeggios.

The Dvořák receives a similarly fine performance, with Järvi looking to reveal as much detail in the orchestral accompaniment as possible. While Capuçon might not wear his heart on his sleeve as much as Rostropovich, for instance, his wide vibrato in the first movement helps project a stately melodic line. The Frankfurt woodwinds excel in the second movement, a gorgeous horn sound complementing fine solos from oboe, flute and clarinet, the latter leaning nicely on its counter-melody to the cello.

The clean recorded sound suits the style of both soloist and orchestra, placing Capuçon just in front of the orchestra so that the tutti passages show him in accompaniment mode; the solo episodes projecting just right. A little more verve in the finale wouldn't have gone amiss – the slower reference to the theme labours rather – but this is a fine interpretation, inventive in its choice of the attractive Herbert piece.

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