Les Grands Interpretes: Pierre Fournier = SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto in A Minor; DVORAK: Cello Concerto in B Minor – Pierre Fournier, cello/Symphony of the SW German Radio/Han Rosbaud/NW German Radio Sym., Hamburg/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt – Tahra

by | Nov 27, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Les Grands Interpretes: Pierre Fournier = SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129; DVORAK: Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104 – Pierre Fournier, cello/Symphony of the Southwest German Radio/Han Rosbaud/ Northwest German Radio Symphony, Hamburg/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (Dvorak)

Tahra TAH 645, 63:36 [Distrib. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

This Tahra issue of performances 1956 (Schumann) and 1957 (Dvorak) from the great French cello virtuoso Pierre Fournier (1906-1986) proves the perfect complement to the recent issue from Medici Arts (MM028-2) of fairly contemporaneous live broadcasts 1952-1962 of the Dvorak coupled with the Elgar Concerto. As in the Elgar Concerto from 1955 Cologne, this collaboration in the Schumann has Fournier paired with the classicist Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962), who could, more often than not, deliver highly expressive, dignified renditions of music for which he harbored a (structured) affection. The Schumann given here (14 April 1957) proves the rule, especially in the beautifully etched and graduated lyricism of the first movement and its subsequent, seamless segue into the slow (Langsam) movement. The cello tone floats over the lightly staccato, punctuated strings and whistling flute and winds, always manipulating the original first movement motif, much in the manner of a monochromatic baroque trio sonata. Another richly smooth transition and the Rondo sallies forth, the woodwinds in light, spry figures while Fournier drives the solo part with unbuttoned abandon that could easily be mistaken for the more contemporary enthusiasms of Yo-Yo Ma. Each repetition of the march theme becomes more urgent, more manic, only to be brought to earth by Fournier’s deliberate, rounded figures and swiftly pliant motion along the fingerboard, especially in the maestoso cadenza. Always we feel the total security of execution, so that the Schumann emerges as an emotional whole, one continuous application of a romantic, fervent impulse.

The Dvorak collaboration with Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (1900-1973) belongs to a group of performances Fournier much admired openly, expressing to his son Jean-Pierre his preference for this Hamburg (14 May 1956) broadcast. Schmidt-Isserstedt coaxes a warm tone from his French horn and strings, building a marvelous satin bed for Fournier’s first entry, milked for all its thematic glory. The concertante style of presentation easily places this approach in close proximity to the Strauss Don Quixote, another work Fournier championed with his particular gusto.  The Dvorak expressive line flows naturally while the NWDR strings and winds and flute ply diaphanous magic in response to Fournier’s high arches. The big key change at the development section whispers all sorts of mystery, the flute intimating pantheistic consolations.  The urgency achieves a terrific crescendo, and Fournier states the theme gallantly over the tympanic and pizzicato string accompaniment. The coda reaches a fever pitch in the best tradition of the classic Casals and Rostropovich (with Talich) performances that rival this evening’s effort.

The Adagio emerges in total, affective contrast to the opening Allegro: soothed, 
meditative, bucolic. The electric rapport between Fournier and Rosbaud remains just as palpable, especially in the tiny ritards Fournier applies without Rosbaud missing a cue. The sudden burst of the counter theme has all sorts of scuttling, string colors beneath Fournier’s passionate cantilena before flute, bassoon, oboe, and French horn make their ingratiating presences known. Fournier’s low register is a wonder of humanity and melancholy grace. The finale, Allegro moderato, swells into massive march-rondo, lit by Fournier’s cello, bassoon, and triangle.  The Hamburg horns inject their own fury, while various twittering and mournful songs wend their way through the woodwinds. The gorgeous middle section – a plaintive, Bohemian song over a muffled, thunderous tympani, builds another series of pedals of  agonized beauty to the solo violin with the cello, the source of the Brahms Double Concerto inspiration. The music collapses into that long-familiar “and so my children” formula Dvorak mastered for all of his late, orchestral pictures. The extended coda’s resigned beauty will bring collectors back to this inscription many times in their musical future.

— Gary Lemco


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