Hyperion Records

Cello Concerto in C major, Op 20
Eugen d’Albert’s background was as colourful as his own life was to prove to be. His ancestors included the composer Domenico Alberti (c1710–46), after whom the Alberti bass takes its name, and his paternal grandfather was an adjutant to Napoleon I. Eugen was born in Glasgow in 1864 and numbered his composer father, Arthur Sullivan and Ebenezer Prout among his early teachers. Like Dohnányi, the young d’Albert attracted praise as a pianist, and in 1881, at the instigation of Hans Richter, he went to Vienna where he met Liszt, travelling to Weimar the next year to study with him; Liszt esteemed d’Albert to be one of his most significant pupils.

Although d’Albert the performer was catholic in his taste, with Debussy featuring in his wide repertoire, d’Albert the composer was, again like Dohnányi, a Brahmsian. (The respect was mutual: d’Albert’s performances of Brahms’s music earned the enthusiasm of its creator.) His only cello concerto, in C major, Op 20, written in 1899, opens with a surprise: instead of the soloist announcing the principal theme, it is the oboe which first steps forward to present it, over arpeggios from the cello, followed by the clarinet; only then does the cello itself pick up the melody, the arpeggios now in the orchestra. The woodwinds remain a prominent feature of the orchestration, offering the rhapsodizing cello its partners in dialogue or commentary over the expansive solo part. Veiled horns bring in a Molto tranquillo passage which leads, in a series of cello trills, to the central Andante con moto, in F sharp minor, launched by an arching melody in the strings which is then taken up by the yearning cello. A series of upward runs seeks to animate the music, but it sinks down again, tranquillo, as a passage of pizzicato chords from the soloist initiates a beautifully tender exchange with the flutes. The upward runs make another effort, but the cello gently brings the argument to a close. The Allegro vivace finale breaks out without a pause, the toccata-like writing for the cello again pointed by the woodwind, the flutes bringing the texture a particular brightness. A stormy development based on a decisive Schumannesque figure gives the soloist a few bars’ rest; when the cello resumes, it is with the arpeggios and solo oboe which first launched the work.

from notes by Martin Anderson © 2005

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Details for CDA67544 track 7
Allegro moderato – Animato – Allegro – Molto tranquillo
Recording date
18 December 2004
Recording venue
Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Dohnányi, Enescu & Albert: Cello Concertos (CDA67544)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: September 2005
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