I regularly hear cellists complain that the repertoire for their instrument is not that large, which is why they (have to) play and/or record more or less the same pieces over and over again. But is this really true?
Well, only if you limit yourself to the more or less well-known composers. And certainly if you still ‘forget’ to look back at the black period in history, when books went up in flames and art, including their creators, was declared ‘entartet’. Fortunately, we still have enough musicians who do everything in their power to ensure that the once forbidden works are not forgotten.
In 2016, Raphael Wallfisch, one of the greatest advocates of the ‘forgotten repertoire’, recorded two previously unknown cello concertos: those by Hans Gál, originally from Austria-Hungary, and the Italian Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Both composers survived the war: Castelnuovo-Tedesco in Hollywood and Gál in Scotland. Both are barely being played, although it is impossible for a serious guitarist to ignore the Italian’s oeuvre.
Things are worse with Hans Gál’s compositions, which are still rare on concert stages. His cello concerto, composed in 1944, is not easy to dissect. Or, in other words: you don’t get it automatically ‘under your skin’. I had to listen to it a few times before I surrendered to it. Gál’s language seems rigid and even though the work is not atonal anywhere, you really have to make an effort. But maybe that’s the way it should be? Because you don’t forget it easily!
No greater contrast than with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s predominantly virtuoso composition! The composer wrote his cello concerto for the great cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, the premiere took place in 1935, Arturo Toscanini conducted the New York Philharmonic. And that was it. Since then, the concerto has been totally forgotten for eighty years. Until Raphael Wallfisch took care of it.
Raphael Wallfisch gives an excellent interpretation of both concertos, with sufficient attention to the various writing styles of the composers. Gál’s concerto sounds almost classicistic in his hands; for Castelnuoco-Tedesco he has enough virtuosity and romance to enthuse the listener.
Hans Gál: Cello concerto in b, op. 67
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello concerto in F
Raphael Wallfisch (cello), Konzerthausorchester Berlin conducted by Nicholas Milton
CPO 555 074-2
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