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ClassicsOnline Home » LALO: Cello Concerto in D Minor / Cello Sonata
By Geoffrey Norris
The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
"Although seldom heard in concerts these days, Lalo's Concerto is one of the great works of the cello repertoire. Its neglect is all the more incomprehensible when you listen to such a towering performance as the one given here by Maria Kliegel with the Hungarian-based Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia.
As her impressive and wide-ranging Naxos discography shows, Kliegel is a versatile artist; and her rich tone, subtle shadings of colour and passionate involvement with the music are applied to Lalo's virtuoso writing with both vigour and sensitivity.
"Lalo was a cellist, and knew how to get the best out of the instrument. The Romantic drive of the outer movements, together with the poetic lyricism of the Intermezzo, explore both the athletic and contemplative characteristics of the cello, which Kliegel invests with spirit and ardour.
"The performance of the Cello Concerto is so gripping that it would be worth having on its own. But the equally impassioned Cello Sonata and the heartfelt Chants russes are a glorious bonus.
Cello Concerto; Sonata
for cello & piano; Chants russes
Of remote Spanish ancestry, Edouard Lalo was born in 1823 in Lille, a
part of France in which his forebears had settled some 250 years earlier. As a
boy he studied the violin and the cello at Lille Conservatory, but his father,
a former soldier in a family of continuing military traditions, prudently
objected to a musical career for his son. Denied further parental support, Lalo
moved to Paris where, in 1839, he entered the violin class of Habeneck, while
studying composition privately with the pianist Julius Schulhoff and then with
J.E. Crèvecœur. He went on to earn his living first as a teacher and as a
violinist and in 1855 joined with the violinist Jules Armingaud and cellist
Léon Jacquard in the establishment of a quartet under Armingaud's leadership.
The Armingaud Quartet, in which Lalo at first played the viola, won a
considerable reputation for itself, not least for its performances of
Beethoven's quartets, which had at that time not been widely heard, and for a
repertoire that ranged from Haydn and Mozart to Schumann and Mendelssohn.
Lalo's marriage in 1865 to a singer brought the composition of songs and the
following year an unsuccessful attempt at opera, Fiesque, entered for a
competition in which it failed to win a prize, but the source of the later
orchestral Divertissemeut, which uses the ballet music from the opera.
It was in the 1870s that Lalo began to come into his own as a composer,
materially assisted by the Société Nationale de Musique, established under the
leadership of Camille Saint-Saëns and the singing teacher Romain Bussine in the
aftermath of the French defeat and capitulation at Sedan in 1871. Lalo had
destroyed the two symphonies he had written earlier in his career, but the
performance of his Violin Concerto, Opus 20, and the Symphonie
espagnole by Pablo Sarasate, who had commissioned the work, won him
increasing recognition. A Cello Concerto followed in 1877 and in 1879
the violinist Martin Marsick, a pupil of Joachim,
As a composer, whether of orchestral or chamber music, Lalo has a strong
command of structure. His orchestration is often colourful, while his harmonic
vocabulary can be dramatic in its choice of chord. His early contribution to
chamber music repertoire, primarily in the 1850s, but with a return to these
forms in the 1880s, is matched by the significant orchestral compositions of
the 1870s, with the colourful use of Spanish elements in the Symphonie
espagnole, Russian themes in the second and fourth movement of the Concerto
russe and Norwegian material in his Rapsodie norvégienne of 1879.
His compositional techniques
The Cello Concerto starts with a slow and impressive
introduction, interrupted by passages for the soloist, who then, in the
following Allegro maestoso, launches into the principal subject of the
movement, contrasted with the major key of the more lyrical secondary theme.
Elements of the introduction are to return throughout, but specifically in the
course of the central development. The abridged recapitulation brings back the
two subjects, followed by a coda of some brilliance, capped by ominous
reference to the slow introduction. The Intermezzo combines slow
movement and scherzo, with the opening G minor Andantino con moto breaking
into a G major Allegro-Presto, a process that is repeated. There is a
Spanish touch in the Introduction of the last movement and this
continues intermittently in the lively thematic material that follows, present
in both melody and in jaunty rhythmic elements.
Lalo's Cello Sonata was written in 1856, at a time when he was
preoccupied as a performer and as a composer with chamber music. The sonata
opens dramatically, with a secondary theme providing the necessary contrast of
key and mood to the threat implicit in the motif with which the sonata had
begun. There is a gentle lyricism and serenity in the second movement. This is
dispelled at once by the forthright vigour of the final Allegro, interrupted
by a hesitant passage, before the movement resumes its original impetus and
proceeds to its rhetorical conclusion.
The Chants russes is a transcription for cello and piano of the
second movement of Lalo's Concerto russe. The movement first offers the
Russian theme in conjunction with the solemn chords of the piano, before going
forward to a more impassioned central section.
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LALO: Cello Concerto in D Minor / Cello Sonata