HOFMANN: Cello Concerto in D Major; HAYDN: Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major; MOZART: Concerto in D for Cello and Orchestra, K. 314 (arr. Flute Concerto) – Sol Gabetta, cello/ Kammerorchester Basel/Sergio Ciomei – RCA 88697547812, 68:54 ****:
Argentine cello virtuoso Sol Gabetta (b. 1981) extends her already phenomenal reputation with this latest inscription, which includes a musical rarity or two: the D Major Concerto by Leopold Hofmann (c. 1762), and the arrangement by conductors George Szell and Sergio Ciomei of Mozart’s K. 314 as a cello concerto, a form in which the composer himself never indulged. The Concerto in D by Haydn’s contemporary Hofmann (1738-1793) takes its cue from the success of Luigi Boccherini, who aimed at a more emotional direct style that fused galant “correctness” with a capacity for a singing cantabile expressivity.
Hofmann came to this concerto by way of his training in Viennese choral music who transferred his vocal aptitude to the instrumental string style. The first movement Allegro moderato exploits a series of layered melodies and dotted rhythm that sigh above a strummed accompaniment in the manner of C.P.E. Bach’s “emotional” school. The close microphone captures Gabetta’s fingering as she plies her 1759 G.B. Guadagnini cello, a tawny sound that luxuriates in the middle register. The Adagio conforms closely to the Boccherini model, in which the solo part emerges subtlety from the ensemble, a technique Mozart would apply in his Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364. The cadenza offers some unique harmonies before returning to the formulaic closure with the larger ensemble. The last movement, Allegro molto, dashes forward with an energy we know from Vivaldi, but also from inflamed Haydn. Once again, the cello part hurtles forward from the mass of instruments to assume its central part in the heady mix. Some deft work in the high flute register of the cello makes some bravura points along the way.
Ever since its discovery in 1961, the Haydn C Major Concerto (c. 1763) has assumed pride of place, beyond the more conservative cast of the ubiquitous D Major Concerto. The elegantly swaggering nature of the opening motif, its essential confidence of expression mixed with its lyrical second subject, forever captures one’s musical fancy. Gabetta’s high-flown tone and light bow, alternating bowed and bounced notes, quite propels us forward. Ciomei’s contribution of diaphanous ensemble and harpsichord continuo makes an appealing context in the “authentic” mode. The Adagio, a beautifully crafted interweaving of two distinct musical ideas, remains the emotional crux of the concerto in which Gabetta can indulge in a cantabile dialogue with the orchestra. The last movement Allegro molto runs through our blood in bubbly effervescent perpetual motion, Gabetta either buzzing or sailing in agile swoops, her Guadagnini airborne.
Certainly Gabetta makes a strong case for the cello transcription of Mozart’s 1777 Flute Concerto, insofar as the figures fall gratefully within the cello’s natural range and expressive voices. Transcriber George Szell (first and third movements) went to scholar Alfred Einstein for “moral support,” basing his impulse on Mozart’s own prior transposition of his oboe concerto for flute purposes. The second movement Andante ma non troppo comes to us now via conductor Ciomei, who having studied the Oboe Concerto, made his adjustments from its middle movement. The resultant serenade now sounds as if Don Giovanni were musing beneath a starry sky. The martial Allegro that concludes the work–the oboe and harpsichord supporting the lithe cello–proves as infectious as its original, and its light heart makes the transition that much more natural.