Four Visions of France: French Cello Concertos = SAINT-SAENS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33; FAURÉ: Élégie in C Minor, Op. 24; HONEGGER: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra; LALO: Cello Concerto in D Minor; SAINT-SAENS: Romance in D Major for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 36 – Daniel Müller-Schott, cello/ Deutsches SymphonieOrchester Berlin/ Alexandre Bloch – Orfeo C988211 (7/17/21) 69:50 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
German cellist Daniel Müller-Schott (b. 1976)has enjoyed sponsorshipfrom several luminaries, including Heinrich Schiff, Steven Isserlis, Anne-Sophie Mutter, and Mstislav Rostropovich. Müller-Schott plays a 1727 Matteo Goffriller instrument from Venice that has ample opportunity to resound in selected repertory from the French school of cello composition, recorded 27-30 August 2019.
The Saint-Saens 1873 A Minor Concerto constitutes a traditional, virtuoso staple of the cello repertoire, its single movement’s dividing into the three classical sections in a modified cyclical form, an extension of procedures used by Schubert and Liszt.Between the rapid triplets of the opening foray and the lovely melody of the countertheme, Müller-Schott makes his persuasive presence known. The music transitions suddenly into a courtly minuet that allows our soloist some song against muted strings and high winds. The first section melody returns in ornamental fashion, and Müller-Schott and his responsive accompaniment move, Allegro non troppo, with whiplash efficiency in long lines of explosive intensity.
Müller-Schott turns to the Élégie in C Minor, Op. 24 (1883) of Fauré, originally intended as a movement for a cello sonata. The dark, long lines of this expressive piece suite our soloist’s instrument for the glamor of the colors, especially when oboe and clarinet inject new material. For a moment, the cello assumes the role of the accompaniment, but only to revert to its coloratura principalship, competing with the orchestra in its high range for dominance. The main theme returns to a grave but memorable closing page.
The 1929 Cello Concerto of Arthur Honegger attests to his innately cosmopolitan nature, his absorption of eclectic styles that include atonality, melodic lyricism, polyphony, dissonances, and jazz elements. The opening Andante projects a nostalgic, bluesy mood influenced by aspects in Gershwin, whom Honegger knew and admired. The mood becomes more animate, a kind of brassy reminder of busy, Paris streets we hear in Gershwin’s tone-poem to Paris. Still lyrical, the music extends its vague melancholy into the Lento movement, in which the orchestral part projects a funereal sensibility. The close miking catches our soloist’s digital maneuvers on his instrument. Müller-Schott executes a potent recitative that causes the woodwinds to chirrup in response, encouraging the cello line to sing more plaintively. Another solo recitative ensues that initiates the last movement, Allegro marcato, an energetic dance in Stravinsky style, percussive but marked by touches of irony. The frequent metric shifts that permeate the work as a whole testify to the suave, virtuosic command of impulses in composer and his faithful acolytes.
The D Minor Concerto of Lalo (1876-77) demonstrates, in colors both Spanish and Germanic, the power and depth of the instrument, as it alternates declamation with high lyricism in the mode of Lalo’s revered Schumann. The writing capitalizeson the singing ability of the instrument, deliberately avoiding the use of double-stops. The opening movement, Prelude: Lento – Allegro maestoso embraces many diverse moods and affects, from somber recitative to ardent, passionate lines. The sense of sweeping ardor dominates the movement’s several, alternating transports into militancy and romance. In its quiet moments, the French taste for transparent intimacy shines through. The dark clouds, however, in strings and timpani consistently imbue the wonderful sense of song with a palpable menace. The last two movements, combining slow movement and scherzo, however, reveal a lighter touch, witty and infused with a decisive, Spanish color and melodic contour we can hear quite verbatim in Sarasate. If the Intermezzo movement nods to Schumann, it does so through the prism of Iberian rhythm.
The lovely colors from the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester woodwinds deserve commendation. Playful, even startling, punctuations and declamations mark the last movement, easily reminding us of Sarasate’s Introduction and Tarantella. The infectious brio of this last movement, Allegro vivace in its last pages, takes us into the major mode, thus casting off with splendid energy much of Lalo’s passionate gloom.
Our principals conclude with Saint-Saens’ own arrangement of his 1874 Romance for Horn and Orchestra, a terse but elegant vehicle for Müller-Schott’s Groffiller instrument. The music’s direct, appealing lyricism offers no sense of conflict, only an appealing aria for the cello to enjoy high baritone and low tenor sonorities.