Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
There have been so many recordings of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto that it’s difficult to work up much enthusiasm for yet another one. However, as I always say, a great performance is its own justification, no doubt about it, this is a great performance. Kian Soltani plays the piece vigorously, first and foremost. Even the more lyrical passages, such as the second subject of the first movement, the entire Adagio, and the finale’s coda never lapse into a stagnant puddle of sentimental goop. Clear rhythm, immaculate intonation even in multiple stops, and a refreshingly smart focus on forward momentum keep the music consistently interesting and expressively focused. None of this precludes the necessary sensitivity where the music turns intimate. It just means that we never get bored.
Barenboim’s sharply delineated accompaniments match the soloist’s youthful verve, which came as something of a surprise. Maybe he’s woken up from the constant diet of Bruckner, but for whatever reason this is a splendid account of an orchestral part that has to be an equal partner in the proceedings. The Staatskapelle Berlin plays with real enthusiasm, but with careful attention to balance so that Soltani doesn’t get overwhelmed as the tension rises. It really is a terrific performance all around, and DG’s live sonics do it full justice.
The couplings are, well, unique. It’s always a bit difficult to find something to go with this concerto on account of its symphonic length. Soltani has chosen five transcriptions for solo cello and cello ensemble. Aside from the fact that the result sometimes sounds like a lost work by Villa-Lobos, there’s nothing wrong with the arrangements, and the first of them, “Lasst mich allein” (“Leave Me Alone”) is the song that Dvořák reused in the slow movement of the concerto. Still, they sort of define the term “filler” in both a positive and negative sense. I would have preferred something a bit more substantial. We haven’t had a decent new recording of Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, for example, in ages. Never mind. Get this for the concerto.
Reference Recording: Concerto: Schiff/Previn (Philips/Decca)