HANS PFITZNER: Cello Concerto No. 2 in G Major; JOHN MAYER: Prabhanda; Six Ragamalas – Rohan de Saram, cello/ Druvi de Saram, piano/ John Mayer, tanpura/ Netherlands Radio Orch./ Bohumil Gregor – First Hand Records Remasters FHR14, 59:51 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi)****:
This reissue focuses on the British-born Sri Lankan cellist Rohan de Saram who championed both classical and contemporary music (including jazz), thus the seemingly odd combination of the 1935 Pfitzner Cello Concerto and the 1982 and 1983 Mayer works.
Pfitzner (1869 – 1949) was in many ways a reactionary, following in the footsteps of Brahms, not Wagner. He was an ardent German nationalist and a supporter of the Nazis. Musically, he was post-Romantic, but enough advanced to repel Nazi cultural officials.
Pfitzner was also a conductor of some repute, but this enterprise was interfered with frequently by the self-same German officials who despised what they considered modern music.
Pfitzner’s magnum opus is his opera Palestrina. This work, along with some of his other compositions, is not what generally appeals, as the works of Richard Strauss do. In fact, the two composers did not get along at all. Pfitzner saw Strauss (also a conductor) as a rival.
On the other hand, this short Cello Concerto is a rather charming work. Its Romantic qualities de Saram brings out effectively. The cellist is an accomplished technician and offers some insight into the music. The accompaniment by the Netherlands Radio Orchestra is excellent under the baton of Gregor, who is convincing in his interpretation.
There are around 240 listings for CDs of Pfitzner’s music at the Amazon web site, including chamber music, lieder, opera, oratorio and orchestral works.
The music of John Mayer (1929-2004) is not at all difficult to listen to or to appreciate. Born in Calcutta into an Anglo-Indian family, Mayer worked as a violinist in the London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. His compositions sound like an effective mix of Western classical and Indian music.
The sound quality of these recordings, vintage 1980 and 1983, is superb. The program notes, in English only, are informative, as are the short biographies.
A historic gem – The BBC and Sir Adrian Boult in the 1930s!