C. P. E. BACH Cello Concertos: in A, Wq 172; in B?, Wq 171; in a, Wq 170 • Truls Mørk (vc); Bernard Labadie, cond; Les Violons du Roy • VIRGIN 6944920 (68:25)
This duplicates the exact same program I reviewed a little over a year ago in Fanfare 33:5 on a Nimbus CD featuring cellist Raphael WallfischRead more and the Scottish Ensemble. The only difference is the order in which the concertos are presented. On the Nimbus disc, they’re programmed in ascending Wq sequence; here they’re reversed.
The corresponding Helm numbers for the three concertos are H 432 (Wq 170), H 436 (Wq 171), and H 439 (Wq 172). Composition dates are 1750, 1751, and 1753, respectively, as given in both the Helm catalog and the CD’s booklet note. Why they’re programmed in reverse order on the disc at hand is a question for Mørk and/or Virgin Classics.
Those familiar with the Québec based Les Violons du Roy will know that despite its period instrument-sounding name, the ensemble plays on modern instruments, but with copies of period bows—so its website states—and in a manner that acknowledges performance practices of the 17th and 18th centuries. I’m squinting hard at a group photo on the back of the enclosed booklet, and the bows the players are posing with look like ordinary, modern bows to me. But the instruments hardly matter, for the ensemble, with a core membership of 15, plays with stylishness and polish that some actual period-instrument bands would surely envy.
In reviewing the Wallfisch, I noted that the cellist’s tone tended to turn raspy in passages that require rapid bow strokes, and that when technically pressed his intonation was not always dead-on. For an alternative modern-instrument recording—and at budget price to boot—I recommended Timothy Hugh with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta on Naxos, while noting that my personal preference was for Hidemi Suzuki’s period-instrument recording with the Bach Collegium Japan on BIS. Alison McGillivray also recorded the concertos for Harmonia Mundi in another period-instrument version with Andrew Manze and the English Concert, but I haven’t heard it.
If I had to rank the three modern-instrument entries, I think I’d probably place this new Mørk first, followed by Hugh and then Wallfisch. In fast-paced movements, Mørk is nothing if not athletically, even elastically, agile, and in Bach’s emotionally moving slow movements, the cellist’s tone glows with melting warmth. Bernard Labadie’s Les Violons du Roy maintain an alert, fleet, and always spirited but discreet presence when the solo cello takes center stage.
This is the perfect compromise for those who like performances informed by period-instrument practices but don’t like the sound of period instruments. Whatever your preference, however, I urge you to acquire C. P. E. Bach’s cello concertos in one recording or another. They are gorgeous music—the Largo of the A-Major Concerto alone is worth the price of admission—and without them I doubt that Haydn’s great D-Major Cello Concerto would have happened.
DelightfulFebruary 24, 2015By Robert Blair (Centennial, CO)See All My Reviews"This a vigerous delightful,inventive work that immediately makes one want to hear more of CPE Bach. He is, in my opinion under-represented in the performance halls/studios of today."Report Abuse