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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: 13 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 E minor, Op 78
composer
published 1907

Larghetto  [3'12]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Friedrich Gernsheim, born to a prominent Jewish family in Worms, studied in his home town with Louis Liebe (a pupil of Spohr) and later in Leipzig with Moscheles and Ferdinand David. He completed his musical education in Paris, where he also made a name for himself as a pianist, and later taught at the Cologne Conservatory, where he benefitted from the patronage of Ferdinand Hiller and also conducted one of the earliest performances of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem. He spent some years conducting in Holland, where he introduced several of Brahms’s works, and taught in Berlin at the Stern Conservatory and the Academy of Arts. Gernsheim was a prolific composer whose works include four symphonies, concertos, and numerous chamber and choral works, and many of his compositions—such as the symphonies—interestingly reflect the reception of Brahms’s style and techniques by a sympathetic and talented contemporary.

Gernsheim’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 78, is a late work, published in 1907. For a while it was a decided success, and was among the last of Gernsheim’s works to drop out of the repertoire after his death in 1916. Though the Brahmsian aspects of its language are immediately apparent to the ear (and British ears may also feel a kinship with Parry and Elgar) it is formally unorthodox—in some respects closer to the conception of Volkmann’s concerto. Like the Volkmann it is cast in a single compact, formally intricate movement, though here the impression is more of a large ternary form that hinges on a lyric central episode fulfilling the role of a slow movement.

The concerto begins Allegro non troppo with the cello expounding the noble, flowing first subject, which Gernsheim soon starts to break up into smaller units for motivic development. A dreamy transition brings a more animated second group in C—both the key and the rhythmic character lead one to suspect Gernsheim had the first-movement exposition of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony at the back of his mind. An important element is a new cello theme, con fuoco e molto espressivo, which is to come into its own nearer the end of the work. A tranquillo return to the first subject dies away like a nostalgic codetta, only to be interrupted by a dramatic cello solo (marked quasi Fantasia) and a brief orchestral tutti, Vivo e con fuoco, that introduces the central Larghetto in E flat.

The cello, cantabile, takes the lead throughout this ardently lyrical episode, with an outpouring of long, shapely melody. As it climbs to the top of its register the Vivo e con fuoco tutti breaks in again, ‘framing’ the Larghetto; the orchestra, with the soloist, initiates a move to E major for the final span of the work. Marked Animato, ma non troppo, this ‘finale section’ is largely based on the quicker second group of themes from the ‘first-movement section’, especially the ardent con fuoco tune. A comparatively brief cadenza soon arrives and then evanesces into a scherzo-like development that sees the cello kept busy right up to the terse but triumphant coda.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2007

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