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The Romantic Cello Concerto Vol 4 - Hans Pfitzner / Alban Gerhardt

Pfitzner / Gerhardt / Weigle
Release Date: 03/11/2014 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67906   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
Performer:  Alban GerhardtGergana Gergova
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series continues to bring new works into a repertoire currently dominated by Dvorák and Elgar. Alban Gerhardt performs the three concertos by Hans Pfitzner, a composer remembered most for his opera Palestrina.

Pfitzner’s early Cello Concerto in A minor, Op posth., was scorned by his teachers (although liked by the composer himself) and the manuscript disappeared during his lifetime. It was first performed in public on 18 February 1977 and published the following year. His Cello Concerto in G major, Op 42, was written almost half a century later. Completed in 1935, this richly melodic single span was composed for the cellist Gaspar Cassadó (1897–1966), one of the finest
Read more cellists of his generation. This beautifully constructed concerto derives its material from the lyrical cello solo (heard over a quiet timpani roll) at the very start of the work. The orchestration is deft and often delicate, never submerging the solo instrument, but full of attractive surprises, not least the tumbling trumpet fanfares that introduce the first of the faster sections. The Cello Concerto in A minor, Op 52, is dedicated to Ludwig Hoelscher (1907–1996), a pupil of two giants of German cello-playing: Hugo Becker and Julius Klengel. It was completed in 1943 and published in 1944. Also included is a Duo for violin, cello and small orchestra.

R E V I E W:

Routinely demonised as an arch-conservative German nationalist with anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi tendencies—though Hitler himself reportedly dismissed him as ‘that old rabbi’, wrongly believing him to be part-Jewish—Hans Pfitzner is hardly the only example of an apparently unsympathetic man who wrote much deeply sympathetic music and, in the case of his opera Palestrina, at least one transcendent masterpiece.

The three Cello Concertos recorded here never approach the exalted inspiration of that visionary work, but they do reveal a warmer, more human side to Pfitzner’s character. It’s evident not least in the late A minor Concerto (1943). In this piece, the 74-year-old composer, ill, bereaved and bombed-out, nostalgically recalled the rhapsodic A minor Concerto that he’d written as a student 53 years earlier and believed lost (it was rediscovered in 1975), while basing the slow movement on a 1923 song beginning ‘My end is drawing nigh’. Like the concise, single-span G major Concerto (1935), its rapturous cantilena all organically derived from its opening cello theme, the late A minor offers a sometimes bizarre mix of the lyrical and the whimsical. Gerhardt holds it all together with his sustained singing lines, while Weigle and his Berlin band provide vividly pointillist backing.

-- Mark Pappenheim, BBC Music Magazine [3/2014]
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Works on This Recording

1. Duo for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, Op. 43 by Hans Pfitzner
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt (Cello), Gergana Gergova (Violin)
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; Germany 
2. Concerto for Cello no 2 in A minor, Op. 52 by Hans Pfitzner
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt (Cello)
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Germany 
3. Concerto for Cello no 1 in G major, Op. 42 by Hans Pfitzner
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt (Cello)
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Germany 
4. Concerto for Cello in A minor, Op. posthumous by Hans Pfitzner
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt (Cello)
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Germany 

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