SAINT-SAENS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in a minor, Op. 33; LALO: Cello Concerto in d minor; FAURE: Elegy in c minor, Op. 24 – Kim Cook, c./ Philharmonica Bulgarica/ Valeri Vatchev/ Gregor Palikarov (Lalo) – MSR Classics MS 1512, 59:08 (9/29/14) [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Recordings from 2011-2012 show off the instrumental talent of cellist Kim Cook, a pupil of both Aldo Parisot and Janos Starker, in 19th Century virtuoso Gallic fare. The popular A Minor Concerto (1872) of Camille Saint-Saens provides an immediate vehicle for digital display, with its descending triplets, double stops, and broad cantabile that mark the opening Allegro non troppo. The archaic strain of the minuet (Allegretto con moto) waxes lyrical and polite in the midst of the courtly proceedings. Saint-Saens then opts for the Liszt formula of restating prior motor elements for a slightly faster version of the opening motifs, now in brilliant A Major. Cook’s low register provides a sonorous transition to the woodwind and horn resurgence of dynamic energies for the last movement, and her slowly enunciated, singing line soars with the best of them prior to the flashy coda.
The noble Elegy of Gabriel Faure (1883; rev. 1890) serves to remember cellist Jules Loeb. In traditional ternary form, the piece manages to express several dimensions to the nature of lamentation, especially when the pastoral middle section erupts into something like Dylan Thomas’ refusal to “go gentle into that good night.” Didn’t Boris Karloff’s doomed character request this work en route to execution in The Walking Dead (1936)? Cook provides a fervent melodic line throughout, and support from the orchestra under Valeri Vatchev resonates beautifully in the winds and strings.
The 1877 imposing D Minor Concerto of Edouard Lalo found its first champion in the Belgian virtuoso Adolphe Fischer, who obviously relished the power range of the instrument. The dramatic Lento opening of the Concerto first caught my ear with Maurice Gendron. Typical of Lalo, a strong Iberian character infiltrates the melodic material, going so far as to quote a dance – in the Intermezzo and last movement – utilized by Lalo’s much-admired Sarasate. The flowing melody of the Allegro maestoso stands out well against the potent exclamations of the bold opening theme. Reminiscent of Schumann, Lalo chooses an Intermezzo to serve as both slow movement and transition to the Iberian sensibility of the Allegro vivace. The energetic rondo offers Ms. Cook ample opportunity to demonstrate the pyrotechnical aspects of her gifts, not the least of which is her expressive cello tone, a product of Luigi Galimberti instrument.