SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

DVORAK: “Silent Woods” – Music for cello and piano [TrackList follows] – Christian Poltéra, cello/ Kathryn Stott, p. – BIS

Poltéra's own transcriptions of Dvorak violin pieces and songs.

Published on November 29, 2012

DVORAK: “Silent Woods” – Music for cello and piano [TrackList follows] – Christian Poltéra, cello/ Kathryn Stott, piano – BIS-1947 multichannel SACD 5.0 Surround, 64:35 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****(*): 

This is a quite lovely recording of music by one of the cello’s greatest friends, most of which has been recorded by countless cellists through the annals of time; unique to this disc is that Christian Poltéra is performing his own transcriptions of Dvorak violin pieces and songs including the beloved four-movement Violin Sonatina. The songs include “Lasst mich allein,” which Dvořák quotes in the slow movement of his B Minor Cello Concerto, “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” and “Song to the Moon” from his opera Rusalka. What makes this disc special is the lovely quality of the playing and the refined ambience and in SACD the noticeably more sumptuous sound, which Bis— working in a Berlin studio—has accorded the performers.

It’s always surprising how effective this music can be. Dvorak may have initially had misgivings about the instrument’s ability to “speak” but he became profoundly fond of the cello especially in what he considered its best registers, the chestnut tones of the middle strings and the plaintive lyricism on the A string.

This recording also underlines Dvorak’s range as a composer of basically intimate expressions of love and sadness while the transcription of the Sonatina gives the cello an opportunity to sound light-hearted; if you’re not a member of the cello fraternity, you may be making your first acquaintance with the dashing, galant 8-minute Polonaise in A major. 

Playing on a 1675 Andreas Guarnerius, Poltéra, who studied with Boris Pergamenschikow and Heinrich Schiff, takes a persuasively reasoned, occasionally passionate and, in the obscure Polonaise and the increasingly popular Rondo in G Minor, superbly virtuosic, approach to setting speeds and adjusting the music’s emotional temperature.

Sonatina in G major, Op.100/B.183 (1893)
1. I. Allegro risoluto 6’02
2. II. Larghetto 4’20
3. III. Scherzo. Molto vivace – Trio 3’03
4. IV. Finale. Allegro molto 6’08

  5. Rondo in G minor, Op.94/B.171 (1891) 7’24
  6. Silent Woods (Klid), Op.68 No.5/B.173 (1883/1891) 5’23
  7. Songs My Mother Taught Me (Kdy˘z mne stará matka) 2’20
  8. Good Night (Dobrú noc) 3’09
  9. Polonaise in A major, Op. posth./B.94 (1879) 8’12
  10. Larghetto in G minor 5’51
  11. Song to the Moon (Mesícku na nebi hlubokém) 5’51
  12. Lasst mich allein (Leave Me Alone) 4’34

—Laurence Vittes

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