British Cello Concertos



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Among the most versatile of contemporary performers, cellist Raphael Wallfisch is especially celebrated as a passionate advocate of British music. Concertos by Elgar, Finzi and Walton lie at the heart of his repertoire, which also includes concertante works by Arnold, Bax, Bliss, Havergal Brian, Britten, Alan Bush, Geoffrey Bush, William Busch, Delius, Dyson, Foulds, Holbrooke, Ireland, Maw, Moeran, Andrjez Panufnik, Rawsthorne, Rubbra, Lionel Sainsbury and Hugh Wood. He has expanded this genre by commissioning and premiering an impressive and eclectic array of new pieces by, among others, Richard Rodney Bennett, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Kenneth Leighton, James MacMillan, Robert Saxton, Giles Swayne, John Tavener and Adrian Williams. All three items presented on this disc were written especially for Wallfisch.

"To listen to three powerfully written cello concertos straight through in continuous sequence might sound like an experience you wouldn't necessarily choose. Raphael Wallfisch's fine solo playing, however - mellow-toned and masterful, never strident or hectoring, and with top-quality orchestral accompaniments to match - ensures that the ear's attention doesn't fell under assault. And the works themselves provide their own recommendation." BBC Music Magazine, July 2015

"No living cellist has done more to promote the British cello concerto than Raphael Wallfisch. This disc represents just a fraction of over 20 such works that he includes in his repertoire, and he continues to commission more. John Joubert’s two-movement Concerto was written in 2012 when he was 84. Wallfisch plays the sonorous extended solo cello passages that open and punctuate both its movements with a restrained eloquence, although the high chord that ends his second-movement cadenza unfortunately hovers indeterminately between a minor and major 6th. Whereas the overall mood of Joubert’s concerto is elegiac, Christopher Wright’s, written the same year and prompted by the summer riots in Britain, opens in brash, Shostakovich-like vein. In its lament sections the solo cello is strongly personified, making brusque, speech-like statements which flow most convincingly from Wallfisch’s bow. The cello’s entry in Robert Simpson’s last orchestral work, a massive theme and variations, is impressive and life-affirming. The powerful eighth variation, using the large orchestra to the full, is stopped in its tracks by the cello’s three stark non-vibrato notes, leading to a dignified song of mourning from Wallfisch. Recorded in the excellent acoustics of Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, the disc has bright and well-defined sound with the solo cello closely and sympathetically treated." The Strad, July 2015

"The essence of good composition for the cello is that the composer fully comprehends the unique nature of the instrument’s tuning. What is apparent to this listener is that all three composers have grasped this principle, resulting in a collection of impressive works each of which merits recorded representation and demands investigation, not least by all established and aspiring cellists."
"Powerful, moving and thought-provoking, it is played ... with unerring commitment by the London-born cellist whose lovely arcing, phrasing, and relationship with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales earns this disc an immediate place among the essential British music of our time." The Independent, December 2014
"This is a remarkably fine concerto that works as absolute music regardless of the ideas behind it. Lyrita should be congratulated on bringing these fine works to disc in such first rate performances. The recording is excellent and there are informative booklet notes."

"The essence of good composition for the cello is that the composer fully comprehends the unique nature of the instrument’s tuning. What is apparent to this listener is that all three composers have grasped this principle, resulting in a collection of impressive works each of which merits recorded representation and demands investigation, not least by all established and aspiring cellists." Classical Source, January 2015

“At the heart of this CD is the cellist Raphael Wallfisch. He not only performs these pieces with the utmost musicianship but they were also all written for him. Since the BBC NOW play with their customary skill under William Boughton, about as well established an expert on his native British music as one could wish to have, this CD is home and dry. The Hoddinott Hall is one of the best acoustics in the country and Lyrita's engineers have, as usual, produced a splendid sound. I did wonder about the slight left-placement of the cello but that is where soloists usually sit so it may simply reflect reality… We do not hear many different cello concertos in the concert hall. Those by Elgar, Dvorak, Schumann and Shostakovich are deservedly the most frequently performed. The three recorded on this CD are of a quality and approachability to match such as Saint-Saëns, Hindemith, Martinu and Walton. They should most certainly not be allowed to lapse into obscurity.” Dave Billinge,

"The Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff proves an ideal acoustic to showcase the incandescent playing of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. William Boughton elicits sumptuous sound from his players, illuminating the bounteous wealth of these lavish scores with accomplishment. Wallfisch gives persuasive and authoritative accounts, drawing a rich burnished tone from his cello, which is rightly positioned on the left-hand side, so one can gain a concert-hall perspective... Paul Conway’s illuminating annotations (provided in English only) complement this outstanding release." Stephen Greenbank,

"Here's an exceedingly welcome anthology from Lyrita. Set down in Cardiff's Hoddinott Hall over three days in December 2013, it features premiere recordings of three cello concertos of uncommon eloquence, compelling rigour and genuine staying power. Each was fashioned for (and two bear a dedication to) that indefatigable champion of British music, Raphael Wallfisch, whose characteristically assured and deeply felt advocacy is matched by a lively and committed response from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under William Boughton.(...) Vivid sound and helpful detailed annotation by Paul Conway add to the considerable appeal of this rewarding issue" Andrew Achenbach, Gramphone, March 2015

"No British cellist has done more to advocate British composers than Raphael Wallfisch - not least the three heard on his disc, each of whose concertos he gave the first performances and which have now been brought together on this release of premiere recordings from Lyrita. (...)Inspiration lies in the riots that engulfed several British cities during the summer of 2011, though Wright's response eschews agitprop as it unfolds from a tensile opening section, via the eloquent interplay of soloist and orchestra, to the lengthy final section whose ominous undertones are ultimately stilled by brass fanfares and tolling bells in a thoughtful if tentative gesture of reconciliation. Arresting while not overly distinctive, Wright's music on this evidence is worth hearing. It helps that, throughout all three works, Wallfisch's playing evinces that attention to detail, tonal finesse and understated conviction which has long made him a persuasive exponent of new and unfamiliar music. William Boughton secures a no less dependable response from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, heard to advantage in the warmly spacious acoustic of Cardiff's Hoddinott Hall, while Paul Conway contributes a detailed booklet note. Cordially recommended, and still good to see that the Lyrita label is still an active concern." International Record Review, February 2015

'The audio quality is first rate, and the very helpful liner notes from Paul Conway are a model of their kind. If the more approachable side of English moderism appeals to you, this disc can be bought with confidence. FRMS Bulletin, Spring 2015

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