Hyperion Records

Cello Concerto in A major
1865; composed for Ludevít Peer; the original Dvorák version is catalogued as B10
significant revision and orchestration

'Dvořák: Cello Concertos' (CDA67917)
Dvořák: Cello Concertos
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Movement 1: Andante – Allegro non troppo
Movement 2: Andante cantabile
Movement 3: Allegro risoluto

Cello Concerto in A major
It is strange that Dvorák never seems to have mentioned that the B minor Cello Concerto was not his first effort in the genre. And yet, almost thirty years earlier, in 1865, he had composed a Concerto in A major for a cellist-colleague in the Regional Theatre orchestra in Prague (where Dvorák played the viola for some years), Ludevít Peer (1847–1904). (1865 was a prolific year for the young composer, which also saw the composition of his first two symphonies and the set of love songs Cypresses, later arranged for string quartet, also inspired by his love for Josefina.) Dvorák never orchestrated the A major Concerto, and when Peer later moved to Germany he took the cello-and-piano manuscript with him; Dvorák probably assumed that it had been lost. However, once the manuscript eventually turned up—it is now in the British Library—it was inevitable that it would be published. Dvorák himself spoke later of his ‘mad’ early period when he was just beginning to find his musical voice; it is safe to say that, had he come across the concerto in later years, he would either have destroyed or heavily revised it. The original version lasts almost an hour, much of the cello part consisting of rambling passagework; and yet here and there are glimpses of Dvorák’s latent genius, particularly in the warm-hearted themes.

In 1975 the much-respected Dvorák scholar Jarmil Burghauser published his orchestration of the A major concerto; this edition closely follows the original, and certainly merits attention. But almost fifty years earlier the German composer Günter Raphael had produced a much freer version, revising the concerto as he imagined Dvorák might have done himself had he ever returned to the work. Raphael was a successful composer in his own right, his works being performed by Furtwängler, among many others; he took a bold approach to the task, by his own admission practically rewriting Dvorák’s concerto. On paper, it looks curious—an early work by Dvorák, re-written by a twentieth-century modernist. And yet, in my humble (but convinced) opinion, as music this version works far better than the original. Raphael retains the warmth and charm of the concerto, while sculpting it into a manageable shape. Of course, it is not a masterpiece on the level of the later B minor concerto; but is it fair to lock up an older child just because their younger sibling is a genius? I love the A major concerto for the beauty of its melodies, for the freshness of its inspiration, for its typically rustic spirit—and for the sense of sheer joy that bubbles through the entire work.

from notes by Steven Isserlis © 2013

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