Leave it to Hyperion with their combination of artistic curiosity and completeness to start a cello concerto series similar to their long-running and excellent piano concerto and violin concerto series of CDs. (Cello fans will want to check out Volume 1, which we seem to have missed.) The notes mention how after a number of lovely cello concertos from such as Haydn and Boccherini there were almost no cello concertos written for a few decades. It was felt the reason was that as the symphony orchestra moved toward the richer, larger and more dynamic Romantic Period concept, composers thought the cello would be unable to project enough to be heard.
Schumann bucked the trend with his 1854 cello concerto. It did not get performed until the 20th century, due to Pablo Casals. At many points the orchestral backing becomes very discreet to allow the solo cello to really sing lyrically. The other three cello concertos will probably be new to nearly all ears. The Dietrich concerto of 1876 is the same length as the Schumann (22 minutes). He studied with Schumann and was a good friend of Brahms and his concerto displays the influences of both composers. It has three separate movements and of all four works on this disc seems most like a standard cello concerto. The orchestra is given a strong role and the cello part is more virtuosic. A transformation from minor key to end in a major key is heard in the final movement. Both the Volkmann and Gernsheim concertos are shorter single-movement affairs – both rather conservative, with the latter leaning heavily toward Brahms.
The recordings were made in a favored Berlin church space and have just the right amount of reverb richness without muddying the orchestral details or the balances between the cello and orchestra.
– John Sunier