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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: 22 minutes 44 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 G minor, Op 32
composer
circa 1876; for Freidrich Grützmacher, who wrote the published cadenza
composer
cadenza for Finale

Allegro  [8'30]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Albert Dietrich was born at Golk, near Meissen, and studied composition with Schumann from 1851 in Düsseldorf. He first met Brahms in October 1853 at the Schumanns’, and they became great friends, breakfasting together every day that month at the same restaurant. From 1861 to 1890 Dietrich was musical director at the court of Oldenburg, where Brahms was often a guest and where he introduced many of Brahms’s works: he was also instrumental in arranging the premiere of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem in Bremen in 1868. His Recollections of Brahms, published in Leipzig 1898, was translated into English the following year and remains an important biographical source. Dietrich’s own works, apart from his Cello Concerto, include an opera Robin Hood, a Symphony in D minor, a Violin Concerto in the same key, a Horn Concerto, choral works and several chamber compositions including two piano trios.

Dietrich’s Cello Concerto in G minor, Op 32, dates from about 1876, and was written for the famous cellist Friedrich Grützmacher (1832–1903), who gave the first performance, but the work has never been published, and its subsequent performance history, if any, before this recording remains obscure. Dietrich’s resembles a conventional concerto in having three separate movements with a fully worked-out sonata first movement. Like the Schumann concerto it is designated as being ‘with orchestral accompaniment’ and other resemblances include the tonal scheme, with the first movement’s minor tonality changing to major in the finale, with a lyric song-like slow movement intervening in the submediant major; the lack of a cadenza in the first movement; and the position of the culminating cadenza in the finale, which like Schumann’s is a march-like piece in 2/4 time. There are also a couple of places where Dietrich seems to be alluding to other works of Schumann. But compared to Schumann’s concerto Dietrich gives his orchestra much more to do; his musical language, which in his maturity became something of a blend of Schumann and Brahms, is distinctive and sophisticated, while his cello-writing is more idiomatically virtuosic.

At the outset of the Allegro the cello announces the somewhat harried espressivo first subject, which has a generous share of Mozartian G minor pathos. A short transition moves briskly to the dominant and the warmth of the second subject, which begins with a marvellously singing tune announced first by the orchestra in canon before being taken up and elaborated by the cello. Its confidence subsides into more anxious subsidiary ideas before increasing rhythmic energy and bravura solo-writing propel us into the development section. (We may note in passing a horn-call reminiscent of the ‘motto’ of Schumann’s Second Symphony.) The development is fairly short, introducing a new melody as counterpoint to the second-subject tune and leading effectively to a recapitulation in which the singing second subject is restated orthodoxly in the tonic major (cello in dialogue with horn), after which Dietrich passes to an extended and increasingly excited coda that continues to develop the main themes.

He styles his slow movement a Romanze in E flat, and after a romantic introductory dialogue between cello and woodwind the soloist presents the song-like main theme, semplice, against pizzicato strings (another Schumann parallel). The central portion of the movement becomes impassioned, involving development of the introductory idea and leading to a more pathetic restatement of the main melody. The finale is a relaxed sonata-allegro in G major with an energetic main subject and a generously lyrical second one; in between, the staccato woodwind of its transition seem to be alluding to the finale of Schumann’s ‘Rhenish’ Symphony. The cello-writing becomes increasingly flamboyant and, after a regular recapitulation, heralds the concerto’s sole cadenza, which is marked quasi Fantasia and is the work, as a note in the score informs us, of Friedrich Grützmacher. This recalls the Romanze theme and flows straight into a brief, bluff coda.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2007

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