DVOŘÁK & LALO: Cello Concertos – Johannes Moser, c. – Prague Philharmonia/ Jakub Hrůša – Pentatone multichannel SACD PTC 5186 488, 65:33 (9/11/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
This new SACD from Pentatone presents us with two very fine recordings and performances of both a well known and semi-well-known cello concerto.
German-Canadian international soloist Johannes Moser, just signed to an exclusive with the Pentatone label, has been an active performer with the Berlin Philharmonic, The Chicago Symphony, The London Symphony and many more.
The disc starts with the Dvořák Cello Concerto in b minor Op. 104. It’s a familiar work, but I’ve rarely heard this fine a performance coupled with such an excellent recording. Moser is assured and energetic, and the Prague Philharmonia conducted by Jakub Hrůša provides a compelling accompaniment. Tempos are brisk, and the recording, a 5.0 mix, has a very wide spread with some direct sound sparingly mixed into the surrounds. It gives the orchestra an expansive soundstage. It was a good decision for this piece. This is a superlative performance coupled with a first class recording.
The Lalo Cello Concerto in d minor is not as well known, but certainly a worthy addition to this disc. There are many fine recordings of this work, notably the Fournier and Rose efforts. Lalo also wrote the more popular Symphonie Espagnole for violin and orchestra. Born in 1823 in Paris, he left home at age 16 because his father did not want him to spend his life as a musician.
Lalo’s Cello Concerto is a contrast to the Dvořák, having a romantic and Mediterranean flair. The performance is flawless, both from Moser and the Prague, but the concerto just doesn’t have the emotional bite of the Dvořák. The recording of the Lalo is quite good, and there is a nice sense of the acoustics of the Forum Karlin in Prague. The soundstage is not as expansive as it is in the Dvořák.
Johannes Moser is a major talent. Pentatone was wise to to sign him to an exclusive contract, and I’m sure more find recordings will be released. I also praise Pentatone for sticking with SACD discs and expanding into high resolution downloads. They were an early proponent of multichannel, and the company is getting aggressive in releasing important new recordings in excellent hi-res sound.