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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUMANN, R.: Cello Concerto / BRUCH, M.: Kol Nidrei / CASADESUS, H.: Cello Concerto (Schuster, Waxman) (1953) (Franz Waxman Conducts, Vol. 3)
Of Russian descent, cellist Joseph Schuster was born in Istanbul in 1903. A student of Hugo Becker, Schuster was successively first cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic-Symphony. In 1947 he moved to the West Coast for a solo career that saw worldwide travel and performances with a series of great conductors. Important recordings duly followed. With Franz Waxman, a contemporary who had also studied in Berlin, and who was one of Hollywood’s leading film composers, Schuster recorded Schumann’s Concerto, Henri Casadesus’ ingenious pastiche in the style of JC Bach, and Bruch’s memorable Kol Nidrei, all of which illustrate his expressive musicianship.
Max Bruch (1838–1920): Kol Nidrei
Henri Casadesus (1879–1947): Cello Concerto in C minor (formerly attr. JC Bach)
Robert Schumann (1810–1856): Cello Concerto in A minor, Op 129
Robert Schumann must seem in many ways typical of the age in which he lived, combining a number of the principal characteristics of Romanticism in his music and in his life. Born in Zwickau in 1810, the son of a bookseller, publisher and writer, he showed an early interest in literature, and was to make a name for himself in later years as a writer and editor of the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, a journal launched in 1834.
After a period at university, to satisfy the ambitions of his widowed mother, while still showing the wide interests of a dilettante, Schumann turned more fully to music under the tuition of Friedrich Wieck, a famous teacher whose energies had been largely directed towards the training of his daughter Clara, a pianist of prodigious early talent. The romance that led in 1840 to their marriage, in spite of the bitter opposition of Wieck, was followed by a period in which Clara’s career as a pianist had, in some way, to be reconciled with her husband’s ambitions and the demands of a growing family. A weakness in the fingers had caused Schumann to give up the idea of becoming a virtuoso pianist, but he drew attention as a writer on musical matters and, increasingly, as a composer. His final position in Düsseldorf as director of music was not successful, however, and culminated in an attempt at suicide, insanity and death in 1856.
Schumann wrote his Cello Concerto in 1850, describing it in his own list of compositions as a Konzertstück. It came, therefore, during the first period of his appointment in Düsseldorf. at the time of composition of his Third Symphony, the Rhenish. He already had some knowledge of the cello, having played it in the 1830s, when he was forced to turn his attention away from the piano, at least as a professional performer. The lower register of the cello poses certain problems to composers, since it may all too easily be obscured by the orchestra. This is avoided by Schumann’s scoring, which, nevertheless, has been criticized, leading some to reorchestrate the concerto in ways that are often interesting, if idiosyncratic.
Woodwind chords, with pizzicato strings, open the concerto, the soloist entering after a brief accompanying figure in the violins. The strongly romantic first theme is proclaimed by the cello, which continues in prominence until the first orchestral tutti, answered by a further solo The rhapsodic material is developed, the solo theme re-appearing in F sharp minor before the recapitulation in the original key, with the secondary theme now in the tonic major. There is an expressive F major slow movement and brief reminiscences of the principal themes of both movements before the launching of the finale, with arpeggios that form part of the cello theme, the basis of the movement, which leads to an accompanied cadenza and an emphatic conclusion.
Born in Cologne in 1838, Max Bruch enjoyed a career as a conductor that took him as far afield as Liverpool and as a composer of choral music that enjoyed contemporary popularity. He is chiefly remembered in modern international repertoire for his G minor Violin Concerto, which is widely known, and by his Scottish Fantasia, also for solo violin and orchestra. Kol Nidrei is probably the best known of the shorter instrumental pieces Bruch wrote. It is an Adagio on Hebrew themes, published in 1881 in Berlin, where ten years later the composer was appointed professor at the Academy, with responsibility for the composition masterclass. The title, which means “All the vows”, is taken from a prayer used on the Day of Atonement.
The Concerto formerly attributed to JC Bach turns out to have been entirely the work of the viola-player Henri Casadesus, one of a number of such compositions or ‘reconstructions’. Joseph Schuster introduced the work to America in 1950 and programmed it in his concerts.
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SCHUMANN, R.: Cello Concerto / BRUCH, M.: Kol Nidr...