Nelsova plays Concertos, Sonatas, & Suites for Cello by BACH, BEETHOVEN, BRAHMS, BOCCHERINI, SCHUMANN, DVORAK, MILHAUD, & KABALEVSKY – Audite (4 CDs)

by | Nov 1, 2015 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Nelsova plays Concertos, Sonatas, & Suites = BACH: Suite in d minor, BWV 1008; Suite in C Major, BWV 1009; Suite in D Major, BWV 1012; BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 5, No. 1; Cello Sonata in g minor, Op. 5, No. 2; Cello Sonata in D Major, Op. 102, No. 2; BRAHMS: Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 99; Cello Sonata in e minor, Op. 38; BOCCHERINI: Cello Sonata No. 4 in A Major; SCHUMANN: Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73; Cello Concerto in a minor, Op. 129; DVORAK: Cello Concerto in b minor, Op. 104; MILHAUD: Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 136; KABALEVSKY: Cello Concerto in g minor, Op. 49 – Zara Nelsova, cello/ Lothar Broddac, piano/ Artur Balsam, piano/ Radio-Symphonie-Orchestra Berlin/ Georg Ludwig Jochum/ Gerd Albrecht – Audite 21.433 (4 CDs), 4:54: 50 (9/25/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

The “Queen of Cellists” Zara Nelsova (1918-2002) performs for RIAS in these inscriptions, 1956-1965, in which she appears in solo, chamber, and concerto repertory, some of which proves new to her recorded legacy. Nelsova spoke openly about her three major influences – Casals, Feuermann, and Piatagorsky – all of whom taught her a fluid use of vibrato, adjusted to suit the agogic balance of the music at hand. Among the significant additions to Nelsova’s discography, the 1949 Kabalevsky Concerto (rec. 20 September 1965) with Gerd Albrecht, enjoys a resonant vitality thoroughly in keeping with its “Youth” designation as part of a triptych of concerted works. A favorite of Soviet cellist Daniel Shafran, the work features a lovely B Major Largo, moto espressivo the composer intended as a tribute to Russian soldiers. The two outer movements provide Nelsova with ample virtuosic fioritura, even while Kabalevsky exploits his natural melodic gift that takes its cue from Russian folk song.

Of no less interest, the 1934 Cello Concerto No. 1 by Darius Milhaud – a Janos Starker staple – receives a jauntily lyric reading (1 February 1960) with Nelsova under the baton of Georg Ludwig Jochum (1909-1970), younger brother of the eminent Eugen Jochum.  The opening bars, flourishing Nelsova’s majestic “Marquis de Corberon” Stradivarius of 1726, sets a rich context for the musical proceedings.  The Concerto saunters and sings, concluding with a Joyeux last movement that careers with festively acerbic sounds, perhaps memories of Rio de Janeiro.

Jochum leads all three concertos on Disc 1, beginning with a muscular, startlingly sinewy account of the B Minor Concerto of Dvorak (5 May 1960) that simultaneously attends to lyric intimacy. In the first movement, Nelsova’s colloquy with the first flute elicits a tender pathos quite memorable. For the second movement, Allegro ma non troppo, Jochum introduces a decidedly rustic element to which Nelsova responds with innate folk wisdom. The Berlin Radio Symphony tympani plays no small role in the drama of this reading. Militancy and nostalgia combine in perfect balance for the finale, whose last pages never fail – in great performances – to convey Dvorak’s capacity for fairy tale panorama.

The Schumann a minor Concerto (1 February 1960) often proves harder than most to balance its declamatory and flippant passages, and the pitfall can be a fatal “cyclic” stasis. Nelsova and Jochum manage an aerial, meditative reading that keeps a crisp motion that sets the cello in the midst of occasionally distracting and disruptive forces.  Nelsova’s tone remains so completely persuasive, much in the Piatagorsky tradition, that auditors will seek this performance for repeated audition. Nelsova’s cadenza projects a fierce charisma, and the music, suddenly realized in 6/8 for the final pages, assumes the character of Baroque dance in romantic colors. The other Schumann, his 1849 Op. 73 Fantasie Pieces (30 April 1959), has Lothar Broddack at the keyboard supporting the tender cello line originally conceived for clarinet. The middle movement enjoys an upbeat optimism that seems to be missing from the opening movement. Nelsova captures the fiery impetuosity of the last movement, with Broddack’s having transitioned from pearly, liquid figures to a more brilliant, diamond patina.

The only exception to the Broddack accompaniment occurs twice: first in the Brahms E Minor Sonata (8 May 1960), in which Nelsova appears with veteran Artur Balsam (1906-1994). The brooding, polyphonic spirit of Bach dominates much of this 1865 work, written in response to The Art of Fugue. Beethoven, moreover, makes his own influence apparent in contrapuntal passages that pay homage to the Cello Sonata, Op. 102, No. 2. This latter piece invites Artur Balsam to accompany Nelsova on the same 8 May 1960 program, likely for their continuities.

If suavity of style in Bach lures you to the solo cello medium, then Nelsova’s three Bach Suites – inscribed in a little over a year 1959-1960 – should appeal to those who favor clean, intelligently graduated dynamics and fiercely accurate intonation. The influence of Casals in these pieces becomes mightily apparent, but the excess in that artist has been replaced for a direct, angular thrust more in keeping with Feuermann.  The Allemande from the d minor Suite, BWV 1008 makes a fine case in point, driven while sustaining some passing portamento, but always highly expressive and melodically taut. Her deep-throated Prelude for the C Major Suite enjoys a musical aggression – and splendid multiple stops – we would later associate with her younger colleague Jacqueline du Pre. A drum, fife and hurdy-gurdy corps seem to emanate from Nelsova’s Gavotte I-II from the D Major Suite, BWV 1012, while her final Gigue sings and stings in pointed colors, her strikes caught in vivid sound upon the fingerboard.

—Gary Lemco

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01