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Cello Concerto

1929; cadenza by Maurice Maréchal, to whom the work is dedicated and who gave the first performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky in February 1930

Honegger’s Cello Concerto was composed immediately after Amphion in 1929, for the celebrated cellist Maurice Maréchal, who gave the premiere in Boston, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitsky, in February 1930; he later recorded it with the Paris Conservatoire Concert Society under the composer’s baton. In contrast to Horace victorieux or even the Prélude, Fugue et Postlude the Cello Concerto is an amiable, urbanely lyrical (not to say urban) work, with a distinct admixture of jazz—perhaps actuated by the thought of the American premiere. It is not without its darker and more enigmatic moments; the Andante opening of the first movement, however, seems innocent, song-like: the bluesy harmonies recall Gershwin (whom Honegger knew and admired) though the cello’s nostalgic melodic line seems to speak with a French accent.

A sudden switch to rather harsh and busy contrapuntal activity makes an effective contrast, and the two elements coexist as the movement proceeds, rather as if a soulful soliloquy is continually being broken in upon by the traffic noise of the city streets outside. It is the cello’s lyrical song that has the last word, however. That lyricism turns melancholy and even bitter in the Lento slow movement, where the cello’s voice sounds sombre and protesting against hints of funeral march in the strings and lonely city sounds in brass and woodwind. An impassioned and virtuosic cello recitative provokes an angry orchestral outburst before a delicate dance-like ostinato idea appears in the woodwind and becomes the accompaniment to the cello’s reverie.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008


Honegger: Une Cantate de Noël, Cello Concerto & other orchestral works


Movement 1: Andante
Movement 2a: Lento
Movement 2b: Cadenza
Track 12 on CDA67688 [1'51]
Movement 3: Allegro marcato – Lento – Presto

Track-specific metadata for CDA67688 track 12

Movement 2b: Cadenza
Recording date
23 February 2008
Recording venue
Brangwyn Hall, Guildhall, Swansea, Wales
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
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