The Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps was one of the most important violinists of the nineteenth century and therefore first and foremost preferred to compose violin concertos. His two cello concertos, however, are not as familiar as his violin concertos. In concert guides Vieuxtemps is frequently assigned to the virtuoso school of the nineteenth century, but this limiting judgment hardly does justice to his tonally beautiful, skillfully instrumented, and symphonically designed works. Nevertheless, his cello compositions number among the masterpieces penned by him. These are most highly effective works with fiery passages as well as many delightful ones. The encore on this release, his Capriccio op. 55, was originally written for the viola,Read more an instrument that he likewise enjoyed playing. It too was first published after the composer's death and is designated as a musical "Homage to Paganini." In his twenty-four Caprices op. 1 for violin the Italian "devil of a violinist" Niccolò Paganini had presented exemplary models for highly effective solo numbers, and Vieuxtemps too admired this epochal musician, whom he first heard play in London in 1834. His work is energized by sumptuous multiple stops clearly generating more power on the cello than on the viola.
If you’re familiar with Vieuxtemps’s violin concertos then you’re bound to appreciate his cello concertos. They may not be quite rise to the level of those hair-raising showpieces but there’s still plenty of jaw-dropping acrobatics and pretty melodies in between to enjoy. Thoroughly recommended.