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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67906
Recording details: June 2012
Haus des Rundfunks, Berlin, Germany
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon & Dave Rowell
Release date: March 2014
Total duration: 17 minutes 59 seconds

'The earliest and most fascinating composition here, a cello concerto dating from 1889 when Pfitzner was a 19-year-old student, starts like a pious exercise in Schumannesque rumination but takes in startling and richly orchestrated outbursts evoking Wagner’s Venusberg … when he returned to the cello concerto genre in 1935 it was with music of unusual concision, making his typically unsettling mixture of restraint and flamboyance even more effective than usual … the Hyperion team provide a characterful recording, close to the music’s generally expansive sonorities without obscuring its many distinctive details. Alban Gerhardt is an unfailingly charismatic soloist, finding a sense of purpose where others might lapse into aimlessness, and the orchestral support is first-rate' (Gramophone) » More

'The three Cello Concertos … reveal a warmer, more human side to Pfitzner’s character. It’s evident not least in the late A minor Concerto (1943). In this piece, the 74-year-old composer, ill, bereaved and bombed-out, nostalgically recalled the rhapsodic A minor Concerto that he’d written as a student 53 years earlier and believed lost (it was rediscovered in 1975), while basing the slow movement on a 1923 song beginning ‘My end is drawing nigh’. Like the concise, single-span G major Concerto (1935), its rapturous cantilena all organically derived from its opening cello theme, the late A minor offers a sometimes bizarre mix of the lyrical and the whimsical. Gerhardt holds it all together with his sustained singing lines, while Weigle and his Berlin band provide vividly pointillist backing (BBC Music Magazine) » More

'Gerhardt und das Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin unter Sebastian Weigle haben zu einer in sich durchaus stimmigen Interpretation gefunden … ein echter Hinhörer ist das Duo op. 43 für Violine, Cello und kleines Orchester … diese ist wirklich gut geglückt … das passt zu dem schwärmerischen, fantasievollen und weit ausgesponnenen Dialog, der streckenweise an ein Liebesduett erinnert' (NDR, Germany)

Cello Concerto in A minor, Op 52
1943; dedicated to Ludwig Hoelscher

Ruhig  [7'37]
Nicht zu schnell  [3'00]
Feierlich  [2'49]
Allegretto  [4'33]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Cello Concerto in A minor, Op 52, is dedicated to Ludwig Hoelscher (1907–1996), a pupil of two giants of German cello-playing: Hugo Becker and Julius Klengel. It was completed in 1943 and published in 1944. A note at the front of the score quotes the main theme of the 1888 Cello Concerto beneath which Pfitzner has written:

In this Cello Concerto Op 52 there is woven a melody which was the main theme of a Cello Concerto written during my time at the Conservatory. This youthful work has never been performed … but the main theme seems to me worthy to be rescued from oblivion. I have used it in some parts of this work from my old age as a salute to my youth.

The Op 52 Cello Concerto uses a modestly proportioned classical orchestra (double wind, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, percussion, harp and strings) and is cast in four movements. The first, marked Ruhig (‘Peaceful’), is in gently flowing triple time, while the second (Nicht zu schnell—‘Not too fast’) is a spiky duple-time scherzo. A moto perpetuo launched by the soloist soon gives way to a a delightful rollicking tune (beginning as a descending major scale) that sounds as if it could have escaped from an operetta. The third movement, Feierlich (‘Solemn’), is short but most eloquent, and the finale is an Allegretto in the style of a jig, dominated by a rather jaunty theme.

from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2014

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