Movement 1: Allegro moderato – Animato – Allegro – Molto tranquillo
Movement 2: Andante con moto
Movement 3: Allegro vivace – Allegro molto
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