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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67583
Recording details: March 2006
Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: February 2007
Total duration: 14 minutes 43 seconds

'Gerhardt invests Volkmann's mixture of melodic lyricism, wit and technical bravado with a brilliant sense of pacing and the urgent accompaniment of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu easily outclasses the rival account on CPO' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Alban Gerhardt's playing is rich-toned, impeccably judged even in the most obscure works, and completely assured … [Dietrich]'s Cello Concerto is relatively accessible music but boasts plenty of subtlety and fine melodies; the Romance is a particular gem and must have been a joy to rediscover … Gerhardt's performance makes it sound (in the best way) as if it had always been there … even for a Volume 1 this would have been a fine programme; for a Volume 2 it is indecently good and the performances are both brilliant and committed. I can only look forward to Volume 3' (International Record Review)

'Alban Gerhardt is no lofty aristocrat of the cello. He throbs and hugs in kaleidoscopic hues: activities crucial in this disarming 19th century collection. The Schumann concerto, persuasively dispatched, is the most familiar, but Gerhardt makes an equally strong case for lively novelties by smaller figures, Robert Volkmann and Friedrich Gernsheim' (The Times)

'Gerhardt's impassioned, dulcet-toned performances are exemplary, rescuing fine music from undeserved neglect' (The Sunday Times)

'Alban Gerhardt throws himself into the fray with thrilling virtuoso abandon and the recording is out of Hyperion's top drawer' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Schumann's well-known, dream world A minor Concerto is here, and superbly played it is. But it comes with three rarities … these are lovely, lister-friendly pieces: immediate, warm and lyrical, full of emotional and orchestral colour … they're all a delight. Alban Gerhardt is the charismatic and full-bodied soloist, showing a spot-on intonation, sparkling virtuosity and great verve. This is a highly recommendable disc to anyone who loves big romatic orchestral pieces that tell a story. Another Hyperion gem' (HMV Choice)

'The continuous offerings of Hyperion to music culture are admirable' (ClassicsToday.com)

'Alban Gerhardt flourishes with cello personality, radiant colour and untiring eloquence in all of the concerti collected on this CD. The greatest discovery is probably the E minor Concerto by Friedrich Gernsheim … Alban Gerhardt plays this short work with voluptuous delicacy and lyric rapture. The music becomes light and sanguine: qualities that can be praised on this CD as a whole … with neck-breaking thrills, Alban Gerhardt reaps musical acrobatic effects from this. Definitely worth hearing on the CD. On this voyage of discovery Alban Gerhardt again proves to be a skilled storyteller and a superb musical cicerone … a showpiece for collectors, and proof of the intelligence and far-sightedness of a cellist who combines virtuosity and content with a touch of genius … on the CD, The Romantic Cello Concerto, Gerhard couples it with the Gernsheim concerto and the also forgotten cello concerti of Brahms’ contemporaries Albert Dietrich and Robert Volkmann. In case someone misunderstands: of course Schumann is the better composer, but the very thin canon of first-rate cello concerti could do with some expansion. To this extent, Gerhardt’s spirit of discovery is also a strategy of frustration avoidance. Having to play the same five or six pieces constantly leads to burnout for most soloists' (Der Tagesspiegel, Germany)

'The superbly worked cello concerti by Dietrich and Gernsheim, both first-time recordings. These discoveries make Gerhardt’s CD a must-buy for connoisseurs of late Romanticism' (Partituren, Germany)

'Avant le célèbre Concerto pour violoncelle de Schumann, Alban Gerhardt nous propose des concertos de l'époque romantique écrits par Robert Volkmann, Albert Dietrich et Friedrich Gernsheim. Trois oeuvres dont on ne comprend guère pourquoi elles ne sont pas inscrites plus souvent au répertoire des violoncellistes. Maîtrise instrumentale infaillible, intelligence dans l'approche des partition et sonorité profonde et chaleureuse sont les qualités du soliste. Le Symphonique de Radio Berlin, dirigé par Hannu Lintu, lui donne l'exacte réplique qu'un tel instrumentiste est en droit d'attendre' (Classica, France)

'After the splendid start made by the Hyperion Series with Romantic cello concerti, the second album turns out to be a treasure-box as well. This refers less to Schumann‘s familiar late work than to the compositions that have long been absent from the repertoire, by Robert Volkmann, Albert Dietrich and Friedrich Gernsheim – scores with wonderful, melancholic themes, deeply felt harmony, passages of ravishing sound, and especially the more melodically than brilliantly conceived solo part. The happily chosen compilation responds well to Alban Gerhardt’s rich tone, too' (Fono Forum, Germany)

'Alban Gerhardt, one of the most inquisitive, versatile and, above all, best cello virtuosos of our times has now recorded a second CD with romantic works for his instrument. On the first he presented works by Ernst von Dohnányi, Eugène d’Albert and George Enescu. Now, to the Schumann work, he has added three others that were composed in the circle around Schumann and Brahms … Volkmann’s virtuoso a-minor concerto, in its key and single-movement form, reminds one, rather distantly, of Schumann’s both familiar and alienating miracle in sound  … the concerto in C minor by Gernsheim was published in 1907. With its network of symphonic style it might remind one of Brahms or, no less, of Elgar. The fact that thoughts of this kind come up at all, that one is so fascinated by the difference as well as the similarity of the sound languages, is due to Alban Gerhardt’s brilliant cello approach. He realises the works of Brahms’s three friends with vital virtuosity and an intensity of playing that raises them to pieces of a high rank. The accompaniment of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu is very emphatic. But when the opening bars of the Schumann concerto spread their magic and Alban Gerhardt articulates the insatiable longing of the theme, then Volkmann, Dietrich and Gernsheim cannot but move to the back row' (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany)

Cello Concerto in A minor, Op 33
composer
1853/5; first performed by Karl Schlesinger in 1857

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
By the time Schumann’s concerto received its 1860 premiere in Leipzig, another cello concerto had received a very successful baptism and was beginning to make its way in the repertoire—which, despite periods of neglect, has never entirely forgotten it since. The Concerto in A minor, Op 33, by Robert Volkmann was composed in 1853–5 for the cellist Karl Schlesinger, but owing to the dedicatee’s subsequent illness had to wait until November 1857 for its premiere, when Schlesinger introduced it in Vienna.

Born in Lommatzsch, Saxony, Volkmann had studied in Leipzig before working as a teacher of music in Prague and Budapest, an experience which inspired an affinity with Bohemian and Hungarian music. Many of his works exhibit the ‘Hungarian’ or Tzigeuner colouring variously exploited by Liszt, Joachim and Brahms. During this time Volkmann came within the orbit of Liszt, who championed some of his first successful compositions (such as the remarkable B flat minor Piano Trio, which also drew praise from Brahms). He settled in Vienna in 1854 but later returned to Budapest as professor of composition at the National Musical Academy there. Though once seen as a standard-bearer for the ‘Music of the Future’, Volkmann’s instincts proved to be more conservative and most of his works are in the Classical genres. They include two Masses, two symphonies, six string quartets, three serenades (one with solo cello) and copious piano and vocal music.

Like Schumann, Volkmann sought to bind his Cello Concerto into a highly unified form, but his approach was more radical: his work is a true single-movement concerto, albeit one cast in several distinguishable spans: basically a large sonata form with episodes and digressions between the principal sections. He also uses the full range of the cello and the work, though nowhere concerned with facile display, abounds in bravura touches in terms of rapid figuration and double-stopping in octaves, sixths or thirds.

The cello immediately propounds the finely shaped first subject, the elegant main theme being touched by a hint of anxious melancholy. An elaborate and voluble transition, dominated by a running semiquaver figure and demonstrating that this is a true virtuoso concerto, leads at length to a dolce second subject in C, the relative major, also announced by the soloist. Its initially songful strain develops in more purely instrumental terms with a witty alternation of low trills and high harmonics. A dialogue between cello, bassoon and oboe, quasi recitativo, leads to the central part of the concerto, corresponding to a development, largely based on the first subject and the semiquaver transition theme, in which Volkmann skilfully combines his ideas. Events turn dramatic, and issue in a cadenza-like solo episode which, with the gradual addition of orchestral instruments, modulates neatly into the recapitulation, which actually involves further development of the first subject before the second subject makes an orthodox reappearance in A major. A second, briefer cadenza leads into the coda. The cello’s concluding roulades around the tonic A climb and fade to a high, quiet E before the brusque concluding chords.

from notes by Calum MacDonald İ 2007

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