Ludwig Hoelscher, cello = Music of DVORAK, BACH, GRIEG & CHOPIN – Meloclassic

Ludwig Hoelscher, cello = DVORAK: Rondo in G Minor, Op. 94; VALENTINI: Suite for Cello and Piano; BACH: Courante and Sarabande from Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009; Sarabande from Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1012; GRIEG: Cello Sonata in A Minor, Op. 36; CHOPIN: 2 mov’ts from Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 65 – Ludwig Hoelscher, cello/ Ferdinand Leitner & Michael Raucheisen, piano – MeloClassic MC 3002, 71:43 [www.meloclassic.com] ****:  

German cello virtuoso Ludwig Hoelscher (1907-1996) raises difficult issues about the relation between art and politics, his having supported Hitler’s National Socialism with a fervor that any biography must find embarrassing.  When we compound his political history by his long association with musician Elly Ney (1882-1968), known to have been Hitler’s favorite pianist, we find ourselves caught between honesty and courtesy.  With the forced emigration of many esteemed musical artists from Germany and Austria, particularly the cellist Emanuel Feuermann (1902-1942), Hoelscher virtually dominated European cello playing in the “modern style” throughout the war years, 1939-1945. MeloClassics issues a combination of three recitals from 1943-1944 Berlin, those of 17 April 1943 with pianist-conductor Ferdinand Leitner (1912-1996) and October 30 and November 24, 1944, in which Hoelscher demonstrates his vividly penetrating musical abilities in collaboration with Michael Raucheisen (1889-1984).

Hoelscher performs with Ferdinand Leitner the romantically melodic and rhythmically explosive 1891 Rondo in G Minor of Dvorak, which the composer had crafted for his favorite artist, Hanus Wihan. The soaring quality of Hoelscher’s long legato line convinces us of his aristocratic command of the instrument and its vocal glories. The music of Giuseppe Valentini survives through the efforts of three major cellists, Andre Navarra, Ludwig Hoelscher, and Janos Starker.  The galant suite’s divertissement allows Hoelscher to demonstrate his alternately gracious and brilliantly facile technique, especially in the rapid figures of the second movement. The third section proceeds as a dialogue between two competing registers, a dainty and suave dialogue, respectively. The brisk alternation of bowing strokes and double stops for the last pages testifies to a consummate technical command of the instrument that never loses its musicality.

The music J.S. Bach moves effortlessly through three selected movements, the first two of which derive from the Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major. The luxurious bass tones strike us as particularly pungent and resonant, the whole devoured in one long and extravagant gulp. Hoelscher can achieve a “symphonic” sound at will, and his runs remain clear, even as he shifts tempo and dynamics seamlessly. The most arresting of the three movements, the Sarabande from the D Major Suite, BWV 1012, might move even Dante to find something redemptive in Hoelscher, as the Italian poet had for Francesca of Ravenna.

The major offering on this disc, the 1883 Grieg Sonata in A Minor, a ferociously passionate work originally intended to serve as a reconciliation piece for Grieg and his brother, John.  The gripping drama and lyricism of the first movement, especially its secondary tune, provide a natural vehicle for Hoelscher’s warm instrument, ably assisted by Raucheisen, who fills out the Norwegian ethos with diaphanous arpeggios and broad block chords.  The brief but compelling cadenza of the first movement receives a bravura realization.  As is well known, the marvelous Andante molto tranquillo derives its martial melody from Sigurd Jorsalfar, a tune originally scored for four cellos. The large Allegro. Allegro molto marcato finale opens with Hoelscher’s solo, a recitative-cadenza that heralds a vigorously rusticated folk dance whose ethos, like the first movement, often hints at the melodic currency of Peer Gynt. The scale of the music belies Grieg’s repute as a miniaturist, especially when Hoelscher and Raucheisen play forte, and the music soars skyward and to the North Country, at once.

Hoelscher closes with two of the four movements from Chopin’s 1846 Cello Sonata in G Minor. The first movement’s colossal sense of the emotionally mercurial – moving from dramatic to agitated, noble to tender – permits Hoelscher a marvelous palette for his expressive powers. The terse Largo of 27 bars, cantabile and dolce, only incite our eternal puzzlement or moral indignation towards a miraculously sensitive artist, Hoelscher, who could support such an infernally bestial polity.

—Gary Lemco

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