Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sounds of Spring at the CSO

From the blog "Music in Cincinnati" by Mary Ellyn Hutton on Friday, April 25, 2009

Sounds filled Music Hall Friday evening:

The sound of the organ in Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3, of hands clapping – the hall was so full the ushers ran out of programs -- of violinist Midori in Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Olivier Messiaen's sublime "Les offrandes oubliées" ("The forgotten offerings").

There was something about this Cincinnati Symphony concert, coming on a downright "balmy" evening following so much wet, chilly weather . . . Attorney Bernard McKay of Newport described it as “the melodious sounds of spring." And indeed, the change of seasons does permeate our experiences, especially in the spring.

Music director Paavo Järvi drew superb playing from the CSO, which responded with the definition, inspiration and clarity that only a great conductor working his own orchestra can achieve.

The headliner was Midori and she did not disappoint, though the impact of her performance was muted by the lack of intimacy in 3,500-seat Springer Auditorium. You can whisper in Music Hall, given its superlative acoustics, but it takes a compelling presence to command attention that way.

Midori -- a tiny figure in a long white dress – has that presence, but it may have been that, even more than what actually reached her listeners’ ears, that brought them to their feet at the close of the Mendelssohn.

Her message was exceedingly musical, but almost confidential. She played with her head bent over the body of the instrument much of the time, her eyes closed as if playing to herself. Also, she plays with remarkable economy of bowing and is able to deliver volleys of notes with amazing precision and control without drawing that much attention to what she is doing.

Though Järvi and the CSO accommodated her the best they could, there were times when the orchestra obscured her lines. Likewise, there were tutti moments (orchestra without soloist) that sounded disproportionately large by contrast, especially in the slow movement.

That said, her playing aimed straight for the heart. The drama of the opening movement (marked “appassionato”) was apparent, the slow movement was caressingly beautiful and her quicksilver acrobatics played out delightfully against warm accompaniment by the CSO in the finale.

Saint-Saens’ “Organ” Symphony, so named for the prominent use of organ in the second half, is an audience favorite and rightly so. Few symphonic works achieve such grandeur and affecting “simplicity” and to the same degree (it is interesting that music from this symphony was used in the film “Babe” about a humble pig facing slaughter on a farm.)

As with everything Järvi conducts, there was amazing transparency here, the revelatory kind where you here things in the texture that you never heard before. This comes from extraordinary musical insight and the ability to communicate it to 100 musicians and have it reflected by them. Just so did timpanist Patrick Schleker underline the harmony of the rustling opening bars of the Saint-Saens. The work’s cyclic themes (recurring in different guises throughout) were always pointed, as in the bubbling winds with their blurred rhythms that led into the gentle Adagio.

Organist Heather MacPhail entered here with the first glimmerings of the organ (the console was situated behind the orchestra). The CSO strings sounded like one instrument, pastel-colored at first, blossoming into a rich romantic sound later after a soft pizzicato buildup. This was a magical movement (McKay’s “spring?”), a kind of tranquil island with the soft rumble of the organ trailing off at the end.

The lively scherzo, beginning part two of the four-movement work, opened with gutsy strings echoed by nifty, agile tonguing by the CSO winds. Pianist Michael Chertock’s scales sparkled as he scampered rapidly upward through the shifting textures.

It was MacPhail’s big moment as she sounded the great C Major chord that opened the finale. Julie Spangler joined Chertock in the glistening piano figures that adorn one of the work’s sublime passages. The effect of the whole was of spinning off into space as the music expanded in contrary motion, organ downward, the CSO upward, toward the majestic end, where Schleker had the last word with emphatic strokes of the timpani (one of which actually broke the head of a drum, but better as a climactic parting gesture than earlier in the symphony!).

Messiaen’s “Les offrandes oubliées” was a CSO subscription premiere. First symphonic work by the then 22-year-old conservatory graduate and organist, it made the case, as did his “L’Ascension,” heard on CSO concerts led by Järvi in 2007, that this great composer’s music should be performed more often by the CSO. It was also an apt choice for an Easter season concert.

Reflective of Messiaen’s staunch Roman Catholic faith, it is a 12-minute triptych on Christ’s crucifixion (the “offering” of the title), human sin (that offering “forgotten”) and the sacrament of the Eucharist (reconciliation).

It is extraordinary music, heartfelt and emotional in its reflection of Christ’s suffering on the cross, suddenly violent and explosive in its characterization of sin. The final portrait of compassion and love, set for violins and violas alone, was infinitely tranquil, wafting upward at the conclusion, where Järvi stood silently for a long moment before letting his hands drop to signal the applause.

Midori Shines with CSO

From the Cincinnati Enquirer on Saturday, April 26 2009
By Kyle Werner

Friday's CSO concert featured a satisfying blend of lyrical elegance and raw, drumhead-smashing power. World-renowned violinist Midori joined the orchestra and Music Director Paavo Järvi to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor. The program also included Messiaen's Les Offrandes Oubliées, and Saint-Saëns' "Organ Symphony." A large, enthusiastic audience gave the performance a warm reception.

The concert opened with Olivier Messiaen's Les Offrandes Oubliées ("The Forgotten Offerings"). Written when Messiaen was just 22 years old, this heartfelt work is a meditation on Christ's crucifixion. Drawing from his deeply held Catholic faith, Messiaen created a work in three sections, focusing on the Cross, Sin, and the Eucharist, respectively. He was also a church organist through most of his life, and his orchestration is often built in colorful layers, much like the different stops on a pipe organ. Maestro Järvi and the CSO brought out these layers with beautiful sensitivity.

Next, Midori took the stage for the Mendelssohn Concerto. She performed the work with an intimate, chamber music quality, often leaning in close to the orchestra to explore subtle musical interactions. Her sound was extremely light and pure, projecting through the enormous hall even at soft dynamic levels. The orchestra supported her with passionate, lyrical playing; at no time did they merely become a colorless backdrop. Maestro Järvi sculpted the orchestra's phrasing with wonderful expressiveness.

The program closed with Camille Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 "Organ." The work got off to a slightly rocky start, with the intricate staccato passages performed with varying degrees of precision. However, the ensemble played with a richly lyrical quality in the slow movement, blending smoothly with the organ. Overall, the triumphant Maestoso was powerful and solid. The blasting organ chords were rather disappointing; they left this listener wishing Music Hall still had a real pipe organ, rather than a bland-sounding electronic instrument.
However, the final moments of the work were certainly no disappointment. As timpanist Patrick Schlecker was blasting out his closing passage, one of his drumheads broke with a loud crack. He continued playing, improvising a slightly different ending to avoid using the damaged instrument.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Orchestrales Sperrfeuer

Dmitri Schostakovitsch schuf sein Lebenswerk unter deprimierenden äußeren Umständen. Wie schwer die ideologischen Repressalien auf ihm lasteten, spiegelt der Kosmos seiner fünfzehn Sinfonien, die in Gesamteditionen (Kondrashin, Roshdestwenskij, Haitink, Ashkenazy, Barshai, Jansons) oder in einer stattlichen Zahl von Einzelaufnahmen vorliegen. Die Zehnte Sinfonie, entstanden zwischen der klassizistisch-ironischen Neunten und der finster eingefärbten Elften, gilt als ein unterschwellig beißend zersetzendes Werk.

Die Sinfoniker aus Cincinnati realisieren mit Paavo Järvi am Pult eine absolut authentische Lesung des voll hintergründiger Programmatik steckenden Werkes. Was oft genug glamourös in praller philharmonisches Luxusverpackung im Stil einer „East-Side-Story“ oder als modifizierter Tschaikowsky-Schocker vorüberwogt, gewinnt in der fabelhaften Wiedergabe durch das amerikanische Orchester besondere Linienschärfe und Transparenz in den stimmlichen Verläufen. Der gestalterische Ansatz meidet jegliche pauschale Oberflächenpolitur. Präzise rattert das maschinell-brutuistische Scherzo. Wie Fallbeile sausen die Akkorde nieder – eine richtige Inkarnation des wütend Diabolischen. Das vermeintlich bitterböse stalinistische Porträt (so die Aussage des Komponisten gemäß Volkov-Memoiren) reflektiert im niederwalzenden Spielimpuls grelle Eruptionen im Orchester. Da wird orchestrales Sperrfeuer in großformatig ausgeformte Zusammenhänge integriert. Die philharmonischen Solisten bringen ihre gefürchteten Soli (Hornruf im dritten Satz, feine Kommentare der Holzbläser) bravourös über die Runden. Ob Dissident oder sozialistischer Held – der Schostakowitsch-Diskurs wirkt in dieser Aufnahme aggressiver den je. Die Aufnahme zeichnet sich durch gute klangliche Balance aus, die keine Überbelichtung einzelner Instrumentengruppen zulässt.

Grüße aus seiner estnischen Heimat bestellt Paavo Järvi mit der 1959 in Tallin aus der Taufe gehobenen Ouvertüre Nr. 2 von Veljo Tormis. Der gilt als Meister großer Chorkompositionen, der nur vereinzelt sich reiner instrumentaler Musik widmete. Freilich lässt das musikalische Material seiner zweiten Ouvertüre sein farbiges Folklore-Idiom spüren. Von einem international repräsentierten Label erwartet man mehr editorische Sorgfalt als nur die Beilage eines einsprachigen windigen Booklets im Kleindruck.

Nouveau succès dans l’intégrale Beethoven par Paavo Järvi

lundi 6 octobre 2008 par Benoît Donnet

ClassiqueInfo avait déjà salué, il y a quelques mois, l’insigne réussite de la vision dramatique et profondément juste des Symphonies n°3, 4, 7 et 8 de Beethoven que défendait Paavo Järvi dans les premiers volumes de son intégrale RCA. Ce nouveau disque, qui couple la Première et la Cinquième, ne nous a pas déçu.

On y retrouve les ingrédients qui font de cette intégrale Järvi/Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie l’un des apports majeurs à la discographie quasi-saturée des symphonies de Beethoven de ces dernières années : une lecture décapante, fraîche, immensément originale et à l’intérêt semble-t-il inépuisable. Järvi, sans verser dans l’histrionisme vain, dirige ces œuvres surjouées comme personne ne l’a tenté auparavant : sa formation virtuose, allégée, à la pâte sonore mobile et transparente mais solide, nous permet d’apprécier des détails d’orchestration et de contrepoints tout à fait inédits, ce qui peut sembler surprenant, compte tenu du nombre exponentiel de versions existantes – mais se révèle totalement véridique. Personne mieux que Järvi n’a su éclaircir, clarifier les dialogues rageurs des cordes dans le troisième mouvement de la Cinquième symphonie ; personne non plus n’a rendu plus chambriste et plus lisible l’Andante de la Première.

Cependant, il n’y a pas ici qu’un simple travail d’allégement, qui serait somme toute louable mais peu original ; le Beethoven de Paavo Järvi est passionnant, non seulement parce qu’on y discerne tout, mais encore parce que le chef sait donner vie à la musique, en millimétrant chaque crescendo, chaque dialogue de pupitres, chaque équilibre, chaque inflexion de tempo, même minime. Sa lecture n’a rien d’académique (ni dans le sens de la tradition romantique, ni dans celui du baroquisme militant), elle ne cherche à prouver aucun dogme interprétatif, elle « est » Beethoven, avec sa violence, son lyrisme, ses doutes et son humour, que l’on a rarement perçu si mordant et facétieux que dans la Première symphonie interprétée par Järvi. Une telle communion entre un compositeur et une façon de le jouer est à la fois exceptionnelle et digne de tous les éloges.

De fait, nous n’avons que des louanges à adresser à ce disque, irréprochable à tous points de vue : la prise de son est parfaite (la clarté des basses y est exemplaire), l’espace sonore est idéalement exploité – la scansion de timbales dans le troisième mouvement de la Cinquième est tout simplement « la » scansion qu’il fallait, ni plus, ni moins –, les timbres sont de toute beauté (quel chant dans l’Andante de la même symphonie !), tout respire, dans une idéalité rarement atteinte par les interprètes, particulièrement dans ce répertoire où il y a toujours un reproche à faire à l’exécutant. Ici, on sent dès les premières secondes du disque l’immense compréhension que chaque musicien possède, certainement issue d’une maturation de plusieurs années, des œuvres qu’il interprète. Le dialogue des différents pupitres dans le premier mouvement de l’ut mineur ou dans le finale de la n°1 témoigne d’une communauté d’esprit franchement épatante entre tous les instrumentistes.

Nous ne nous répandrons donc pas plus en éloges : vous l’aurez compris, ce disque est indispensable.

March 29, 2009 Who's Your Papa?

An excerpt from the blog of Albert Imperato on the Gramophone web site:

I’m driving back to the city with Brian (he’s driving; I’m typing) and I’m asking him to help me come up with an intro to my big Haydn blog. He told me that “Great Composers: Haydn” was the first music history class he took at Holy Cross, but beyond that he’s leaving me to my own devices. Even though I’ve never studied music, I was able to read and play some of Haydn’s keyboard sonatas (love those Alberti basses!). And two Haydn symphonies – Nos 87 and 103, Drumroll – were among the first five recordings I ever purchased (Sir Colin Davis with the Concertgebouw on Philips; both symphonies remain favorites, but I tend to listen to Harnoncourt and Brüggen’s Haydn these days).

I suppose I’ve been a bit of a Haydn junkie since first discovering his music 25 years ago. I’ve listened to a Haydn string quartet or symphony almost every morning since I graduated from college in 1984 (lately, I’ve discovered that his piano trios are nearly as entertaining and those are good morning fare as well). The reasons are pretty simple: the world can be a fairly rotten place, but Haydn’s music is exactly the opposite – it’s charming, earthy, (mostly) joyous, imaginative, clever and inexhaustibly fresh. Heck, it’s even fun. Chatting with my dear friend Barrymore Scherer (a wonderful writer on many topics from classical music to antiques) a few weeks back he compared Mozart to a smoothly paved road noting that, by comparison, Haydn’s music was more like a scenic country road – bumps and all. Smart guy that Barrymore! Then, a few weeks ago I Skyped with my friend Isabella de Sabata and we talked a bit about Haydn. We worked together back in our record company days and she is married to John Eliot Gardiner. He popped into the room while Isabella and I were on line discussing the fact that John Eliot would be coming to New York in the fall to conduct the two great Haydn oratorios. When I asked him if The Creation was his favourite Haydn work (seems like just about every musicologist says it’s his best work) he surprised me when he said that he actually preferred The Seasons. How can it be, I thought to myself, slightly irritated, that a Haydn freak like me doesn’t really know The Seasons? But I soon admitted to myself that we are actually very lucky that he wrote so very many works because it made it impossible to get as dangerously familiar with them as we might otherwise: much harder to overplay Haydn’s 104 symphonies than Beethoven’s nine! In any case, since if I had to pick one genre of Haydn works for my desert island I’d go with the symphonies, I decided to poll some classical musicians and writers and see if anyone would be so bold as to choose just one of Haydn’s 100 plus as his or her favourite. I got some insightful replies, which follow below – my small contribution to the Haydn bicentennial celebrations (responses are in alphabetical order, to avoid bruised egos).

Paavo Jävi, conductor (music director, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra): When I think about Haydn I think of my Dad. We played four-hands symphonies since I was ten, paying from the score! I love Haydn and Johann Strauss and both of them make me think of my father. Of all of the Haydn Symphonies that I love – and I love them all – I’ll choose No 82, The Bear, which I recently conducted. I can’t help to think how wrong people are to think of Haydn as slightly gray and not exciting and a bit pedestrian. I can’t understand that reputation! His music is insanely entertaining. His music is like the orchestra bursting out laughing, but, at the same time, it’s perfection! Mozart and Beethoven called him Pape for a reason: you don’t call just anyone Papa!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tetzlaff, CSO make Brahms breathtaking

From Cincinnati.com by Janelle Gelfand on 4/17/09

Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major is one of the great masterpieces for the violin that is often over-romanticized. On Friday, violinist Christian Tetzlaff brought his distinctive voice to Brahms with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the result was both a breathtaking display of virtuosity and music that seemed to come straight from the heart.

Tetzlaff was soloist with Paavo Järvi conducting an engaging program, which included the orchestra’s first performance of Mauricio Kagel’s Etude No. 3 and Berlioz’s orchestral music from his dramatic symphony “Romeo et Juliette.”

Tetzlaff grew up in Hamburg and lives in Frankfurt, Germany, but in the ’80s, he spent a year studying with Walter Levine at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Now 43, he is an artist in his prime, known as much for his intelligence and impeccable technique in the classics as for his probing performances of Bach and new music.

So it was interesting to see what he would do with Brahms. This was impassioned Brahms, with electricity in the virtuosic passages, and sweetness in the lyrical phrases. But it was also striking for its lightness, shorter phrases and minimum use of vibrato, which created a pure tone. You got the feeling, as the violinist communicated with brilliance, warmth and imagination, that this was the way Brahms would have wanted it to be played.

The first movement’s cadenza matched precision with breathtaking fireworks. The concerto’s heart is the slow movement, which in Tetzlaff’s hands seemed deeply personal. He felt every note in his body, and as the finale traveled between rhapsodic melody and dance music, he almost danced along with it.

Järvi and the orchestra made an inspired collaboration, and Dwight Parry contributed a beautifully phrased oboe solo in the Adagio. With the crowd on its feet with ovations, Tetzlaff provided an encore: The Largo from J.S. Bach’s Sonata in C Major, playing it like a god.
The evening opened with Kagel’s Etude No. 3 (1996), which Järvi aptly described as “a kaleidoscope of rhythm and sounds.” A coloristic piece, it was unexpectedly perky and humorous, and its ethereal central section reminded one of Asian bells. Ultimately, the piece was organized by rhythm, and a spectacle for percussion and brass brought it to a cacophonous climax.

To conclude, Järvi revisited the orchestral music from Berlioz’s “Romeo et Juliette.” This was a vivid and powerful performance, and the orchestra played with exceptional polish. Of the four movements extracted from the odd mixture of symphony and cantata, the “Love Scene” and the “Queen Mab” scherzo were the most rewarding. Berlioz’s “Love Scene” was one of the most sublime moments of the season, with warmly sounding low strings doubled in the horns. Järvi balanced its fresh, impassioned moments with tender ones. The scherzo was simply magical.
The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, www. cincinnatisymphony.org.

Tetzlaff and Could You Ask For Anything More?

From the web site "Music in Cincinnati" by Mary Ellyn Hutton on 4/17/09

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff is responsible for the finest single performance (and I do mean single) I have ever heard in my life: the complete unaccompanied sonatas and partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach, six multi-movement works, from memory, just Tetzlaff and his violin, at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati on Oct. 10, 2004. He returned to Cincinnati Friday night at Music Hall for a guest appearance with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This time it was the Brahms Violin Concerto and the consummate musicality he brought to Bach and the baroque was fulfilled in this exemplar of German romanticism. The concert, billed as "Music and Drama," and led by music director Paavo Järvi, also included orchestral music from Berlioz' "Romeo and Juliet" and 20th-century iconoclast Mauricio Kagel's Etude Number 3. "Music and Drama"was a title that, like most attempts to label a symphony concert, was somewhat ill-fitting since Kagel's Etude is not one of his "music as theater" works and to make a purely orchestral symphony out of Berlioz' "Dramatic Symphony" (the composer's term) takes some doing that necessarily foreshortens the drama. Tetzlaff's reading of the Brahms partook more of selfless beauty and perfection than of pitting soloist against orchestra as implied by the concerto form. From the entrance of the violin after the orchestral exposition, Tetzlaff made that clear, asserting lyricism and clarity over bravura. The first movement moved briskly along, favoring integration of forces for the utmost expressive effect. Even in the cadenza -- a daunting one that he made look easy -- Tetzlaff elevated musical expression over display. The Adagio was ravishing, beginning with principal oboist Dwight Parry 's shapely enunciation of the gentle theme. Tetzlaff, who dips and sways for emphasis as he plays, followed with a tone so pure and sweet it could re-set the standards for silver and gold. Working closely with Järvi, who made the CSO an equal partner throughout the concerto, he moved briskly into the gypsy rondo finale where the emphasis was more on suavity and good humor than swagger. Responding to the audience's ovation, Tetzlaff encored with, yes, Bach, the Largo from his unaccompanied Sonata in C Major, BWV 1005. Berlioz' seven-movement "Romeo and Juliet" is part opera/oratorio, part symphony. It is a landmark work that greatly impressed Richard Wagner, among others, and led to the expansion and variation of the symphonic form as exemplified by Gustav Mahler. The five orchestral portions come from movements 1-4 and 6: The Montagues and Capulets brawling (first movement introduction), Romeo alone at the ball (movement two), the balcony scene (movement three), "Queen Mab" scherzo (movement four) and Romeo at Juliet's tomb (movement six). To make a purely orchestral symphony out of this, some combination of movements must be made. Ending with Berlioz' movement six (Romeo at the tomb) doesn't work. since it is very short (eight minutes) and ends with a whimper of clarinet. Better are the splendid "Queen Mab" scherzo and Romeo alone at the ball, though to end with one of these leaves the drama incomplete. (Berlioz ends the work, like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with a splendid choral/orchestral finale and a solo bass as Friar Lawrence.) Still it was wonderful to hear this great music. (The first complete performance of Berlioz' "Romeo and Juliet" in the U.S. took place at the 1878 Cincinnati May Festival, led by Theodore Thomas.) Järvi began with the Montagues and Capulets, then the love scene, "Queen Mab" and finally, Romeo alone at the ball, giving it a four movement, symphonic shape (not unlike Berlioz programmatic "Symphonie fantastique"). The violas dug in with grit in the opening fugato, quickly followed by the cellos and violins, as the warring Montagues and Capulets. The intervention of the Prince of Verona showcased the princely CSO brasses, who sent the fractious strings scattering. Järvi took the second movement balcony scene at an ardent pace, letting Berlioz' masterful tone painting say it all, warm and anxious for Romeo (cellos), sweetly responsive for Juliet (woodwinds). There was no hint of "forbidden-ness" or of the tragedy to come and Juliet even dallied when her nurse called from inside the house (angry outbursts by the violins). "Queen Mab" (the tiny creature who invades people's dreams) brought the full color of the CSO to the fore, with muted, scampering strings, the mysterious flute/English horn episode, the call to arms within the sleeping soldier's brain (horns, drums) and the sparkling, Tinkerbell-like end. "Romeo alone," the final movement, contrasted the melancholy hero with the frenetic sounds of the Capulets' ball. Oboist Parry, the CSO cellos (pizzicato) and percussionist William Platt on tambourine combined in a beautiful exposition of Romeo's theme, while Järvi gave it an almost bitter irony later against the confusion of the ball. "Merriment" held sway, though, to the final slam bang end. Kagel, who died in September shortly after attending a performance of his Etude No. 3 by the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra led by Järvi, was one of the musical innovators of the last century. He was most famous for introducing theater into his works by calling for use of props, acting by the players and so on. "Etude" denotes a piece of absolute music (stressing a technical demand of some kind) and so it is in this seven-and-a-half-minute work commissioned by the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, where it was premiered in 1997 by former CSO music director Michael Gielen. But perhaps Kagel's tongue was in his cheek, since the musicians have plenty to exercise them throughout. It is an attractive work that rewards repeated hearing since there is so much going on. It chugged softly at the beginning, working into a furor now and then and (to me at least) recalling both John Adams and Igor Stravinsky. It was momentarily ethereal, with string harmonics, piccolos, harps and piano at one point. At another, a four-note theme sneaked through. There was a momentary jam session that landed on an open fifth, then climbed back through a big jazz lick to a jolly finish on a big major chord. The concert repeats at 8 p.m. tonight and should not be missed. Call (513) 381-3300 for tickets.

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.