Notes and Editorial Reviews
Capuçon’s interpretation is very special and deserves considerable praise.
"The Virgin Classics release contains both Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations; works separated by over seventy years. The extremely popular Rococo Variations is frequently performed probably at the expense of the Sinfonia Concertante, a score that suffers from a comparative and unwarranted neglect in concert programmes. The virtuoso demands on the soloist in the Prokofiev, especially in the central movement, make this one of the most challenging scores in the cello repertoire. The blend of French cellist Gautier Capuçon, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra and their maverick Russian-born conductor Valery Gergiev is a
heady and exciting prospect. Capuçon has quickly built himself a reputation for communicating significant passion in the late-Romantic repertoire. Whilst the amazingly hard-working Maestro Gergiev is also renowned for interpretations of real dramatic intensity. Capuçon plays either a Matteo Goffriler cello from 1701 or a Joseph Contreras from 1746. I’m not sure which he was using for this live 2008 Christmas Eve recording at the Mariinsky but I was struck by the instrument’s rich, mellow and velvety timbre.
The Prokofiev work has a convoluted history and started out as a cello concerto. Encouraged by cellist Gregor Piatigorsky Prokofiev made sketches for his Cello Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 58 as early as 1933. The score was introduced in 1938 at Moscow by another cellist Lev Berezovsky and the USSR State Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Melik-Pashayev. Poorly received, Prokofiev felt the score needed alteration and he set about extensive rewriting. At Boston in 1940 Piatigorsky gave the American première of the score in its revised form. Some years later in 1947 Prokofiev attended another performance of the neglected concerto given by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich at the Moscow Conservatoire. Rostropovich’s playing sparked Prokofiev’s fresh interest in the score and with assistance from the great cellist in 1950-52 he undertook yet more revisions. At the 1952 introduction of what was briefly known as his Cello Concerto No. 2 Rostropovich was the soloist under Sviatoslav Richter. Renowned pianist Richter was making his rather unlikely conducting debut with the Moscow Youth Orchestra; seemingly his only public attempt at conducting. Prokofiev made additional revisions recasting the score as his Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra in E minor, Op. 125. Incidentally the score is sometimes known as the Symphony-Concerto. It was after Prokofiev’s death that the Sinfonia Concertante was given its première in 1954 by Rostropovich with the Danish Radio Orchestra at concert at Copenhagen.
Tchaikovsky wrote his Variations on a Rococo Theme in 1876 for Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, a German cellist and fellow professor at the Moscow Conservatoire. The appealing score comprises a theme and a set of seven variations with coda. In this live performance Capuçon plays Wilhelm Fitzenhagen’s revised version of Tchaikovsky’s score as published in 1878. The main theme first heard at 0:58 is beautifully underlined by Capuçon who plays throughout with insatiable affection, vitality and control. I especially enjoyed the second variation where the cello and orchestra undertake a short but lively discussion. In variation three I was struck by the impassioned tenderness of the soloist in his long and attractive cello line. Capuçon provides an amiable and distinctly mischievous character to variation five and in the score’s conclusion I loved the wild, bold and infectiously spirited folk-dance."
-- Michael Cookson , MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Rococo Variations: Variation I
Rococo Variations: Variation II
Rococo Variations: Variation III
Rococo Variations: Variation IV
Rococo Variations: Variation V
Rococo Variations: Variation VI
Rococo Variations: Variation VII e Coda
Sinfonia Concertante: I: Andante
Sinfonia Concertante: II: Allegro giusto
Sinfonia Concertante: III: Andante con moto
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