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ClassicsOnline Home » DVORAK / ELGAR: Cello Concertos
"You will be hard pressed to find a rival recording as persuasive as this."
"Her playing has great virtuosity, but it is her phrasing especially in the Elgar, which suggests a great musical intelligence"
Elgar Society Journal
"She has a warm tone which matches the beautifully balanced orchestral sounds produced by the Naxos engineers"
DvorÃ¡k (1841 - 1904)
Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Elgar (1857 - 1934)
Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85
Cello Concertos of the Bohemian composer AntonÃn DvorÃ¡k and the English composer Sir
Edward Elgar represent the summit of romantic achievement in the form. The concertante
cello found a place in later Baroque repertoire, with solo cello concertos by Vivaldi,
Tartini and others, leading to the classical concertos of composers in Mannheim, Vienna
and Berlin and the concertos of Haydn and Boccherini. It was not until 1850 that the cello
concerto received the attention of major romantic composers, with Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto of that year. Brahms paired the
instrument with the violin in his Double Concerto
of 1887, but it was DvorÃ¡k who in 1895 first provided a concerto in which the solo cello
forms an essential part of a full symphonic texture.
son of a village butcher-cum-inn-keeper, DvorÃ¡k made his early career as a viola-player,
serving for a time under Smetana at the Czech National Theatre. By 1873, the year of his
marriage to a singer in the chorus of the National Theatre, he was able to leave the
orchestra in order to devote more time to composition, further security being provided by
a government award given on the recommendation of Brahms and the critic Hanslick, among
others. Although DvorÃ¡k, as a Bohemian, was to meet some hostility in Vienna, he
established an international reputation as a composer over the following years, and in
1892 accepted the position of director of the new National Conservatory in New York. He
retained this position until 1895, with a welcome and extended period of leave at home
before returning in the autumn of 1894 to resume his duties.
wrote his B minor Cello Concerto
first movement of the concerto opens with an orchestral exposition, the first theme played
by the clarinets and restated emphatically by the rest of the orchestra before the
appearance of the second theme, introduced by a solo French horn. The solo cello enters
with the first theme, subject thereafter to a number of improvisatory variations, before
the soloist plays the second subject. In the central development section remoter keys
follow, the cello playing the principal theme in a poignantly slower version, and
providing an accompaniment to further variations by the wind instruments of the orchestra.
The soloist finally ushers in the last section with a repetition of the second theme, an
unexpected turn of events. It is, however, the first theme that re-appears to end the
movement. The slow movement opens with the principal theme played by the clarinet,
accompanied by bassoons and oboes. The theme is then taken up by the solo cello. A middle
section, in marked dramatic contrast, makes use of the opening phrase of a song written by
DvorÃ¡k in 1887. The principal theme appears again, played by three French horns, to be
followed by a cello cadenza and a brief coda. The
finale of the concerto is in free rondo form, its principal theme finally
appearing in its full form when the soloist enters. This theme serves as a link between a
series of episodes, rich in variety and in opportunities for the soloist. The extended
coda includes a reference to the opening of the first movement, played by the clarinets
before the triumphant conclusion of the whole work.
many Edward Elgar has unfairly been identified exclusively with the music of the British
Empire. This imperialist reputation has been vulgarly stressed by compositions such as the
Pomp and Circumstance Marches, but these may
seem merely the accidents of fashion and history. Elgar's real achievement as a composer
must lie in the handful of chamber works written at the end of the 1914-18 war, the two
symphonies, the viol in and cello concertos and in the remarkable choral set ting of
Cardinal Newman's The Dream of Gerontius.
Elgar, himself a violinist of modest competence, completed his Violin Concerto in 1910. The Cello Concerto, written after the war, was influenced
by the relative economy of means that the composer had discovered in his string quartet and piano
quintet of the preceding year. It differs from the Violin Concerto in particular in its intense
concentration of material. He worked on the composition during the summer of 1918 with the
collaboration of the cellist Felix Salmond, the cellist in earlier performances of Elgar's
Quartet and Piano Quintet and later an influential teacher at
the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute. The first performance was grossly under
rehearsed, since the conductor of the rest of the programme, Albert Coates, described in
her diary by Lady Elgar as "that brutal selfish ill-mannered bounder Coates",
used rehearsal time allocated to the concerto for Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, keeping Elgar waiting for an hour.
The public reception of the work was, in consequence, luke-warm, while some critics at
least correctly apportioned the blame for the inadequate first performance of a major work
by the greatest of living English composers.
first movement of Elgar's Cello Concerto
opens with a grandiose statement by the soloist, leading, in almost improvisatory style,
to a lilting melody announced by the violas. This is repeated by the soloist, who
continues to dominate the movement. Plucked chords by the soloist lead to the second
movement, a melancholy Scherzo, in which the
soloist is again to the fore, with orchestration of the greatest economy. There is still
greater poignancy in the brief slow movement, a continuous solo for the cello. The final Rondo opens with eight bars in which the first theme
is suggested, to be interrupted by a declamatory statement from the soloist, before the
movement is allowed to take its full course. Even then the excitement and joy of the
principal theme are broken by references to earlier themes in the concerto and the mood of
autumnal introspective melancholy that make this one of Elgar's greatest works. At the end
of the score, where Haydn might have written Deo
gratias, Elgar wrote the words Finis. R.I.P., intentionally or not signalling
the concerto as the end of his creative life, the end of a war but also the end of an age.
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DVORAK / ELGAR: Cello Concertos