Hyperion Records

Cello Concerto in G minor, Op 32
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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