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Barber: Cello Concerto, Sonata, Adagio / Poltera, Stott, Litton

Barber / Poltera,Christian
Release Date: 01/22/2013 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1827  
Composer:  Samuel Barber
Performer:  Christian PolteraKathryn Stott
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BARBER Cello Concerto. Cello Sonata. Adagio for Strings Christian Poltéra (vc); Kathryn Stott (pn); Andrew Litton, cond; Bergen PO BIS 1827 (SACD: 54:13)

Performing the cello music of Samuel Barber requires a special identification with the ethos of the composer to do well. It also demands the maximum of technique, taste, and temperament. Barber played the cello as a child even before he learned the piano, so there is a great naturalness to his writing for the Read more instrument—almost like dramatic speech in its melismatic quality. He composed the two cello works on this CD while keeping the first performers in mind, with the result that the solo parts are highly personal and intimate. Christian Poltéra is one of the finest cellists I ever have heard. He reminds me a little of the young Leonard Rose; there is a similarly lyrical, lovely tone combined with consummate technical ease. Poltéra’s double-stops are so beautifully phrased that they never interrupt the melodic line. His clear sound and gorgeous intonation are marvelously suited to Barber. More than just a technical whiz, Poltéra truly has taken the measure of the dramatic content of Barber’s music—his combination of theatricality and directness is highly appealing. I listened for comparison to Wendy Warner’s recording of the concerto with Marin Alsop. As fine and musicianly a player as Warner is, her performance just sounds labored next to Poltéra’s. I have heard the concerto twice live, with Nathaniel Rosen and Lorne Munroe, Carter Brey’s predecessor as first chair of the New York Philharmonic. Even allowing for the difficulty of playing this piece without editing, neither performance measured up to Poltéra’s. His CD is both for lovers of Barber’s music and connoisseurs of great cello playing.

In the concerto’s first movement, Poltéra’s playing is beautifully rhapsodic, matched by a subtle, lyrical response from Andrew Litton. They create momentum without any rhythmic rigidity. The cadenza is almost violinistic in its tone quality and lightness of touch. Poltéra offers lovely Sostenuto playing in the next movement, including a soulful duet with the solo oboe. Cellist and orchestra here achieve a chamber music ideal. The last movement finds Poltéra passionate and agitated, while never forsaking his technical elegance. Litton’s accompaniment is delicately colored yet full of impact. Overall, the concerto receives a stunning performance. The opening movement of the sonata reveals Poltéra and Kathryn Stott producing lush, romantic playing with a wide dynamic range. The quiet moments are especially lovely. Poltéra’s accounts of the Adagio sections of the next movement are particularly noble, while Stott plays the central Presto with a magical lightness. The sonata concludes with a high degree of fantasy in the last movement. As for Andrew Litton’s account of the Adagio for Strings , it is very fine, although I could have wished for a less ubiquitous piece to end the program.

The sound engineering of the CD layer is excellent. I was unable to listen to the two SACD programs. Interestingly, although Direct Stream Digital technology was used to prepare the SACD layers, the actual masters were recorded in 24 bit. Does this mean that BIS thinks that 24 bit is a better recording technology than DSD? Audiophiles take note. I am extremely impressed with Christian Poltéra. He has loads of technique and all the musicianship one could want. I don’t think anyone looking for Barber’s cello music would be disappointed with this CD.

FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Cello, Op. 22 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Christian Poltera (Cello)
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USA 
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Rome, Italy 
Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Christian Poltera (Cello), Kathryn Stott (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; USA 

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