Schumann Cello Concerto and Works for Cello & Piano
The latest work on this CD is the Cello Concerto in A minor from 1850. In the worrying years leading to the composer’s death he was having trouble getting works published but a welcome approach came in 1853 from the publishing house Breitkopf with a fee of 20 Louis d’or for a few of Schumann’s latest pieces, including the cello concerto which they particularly liked. The composer tantalizingly offered them a version with string quintet, and a piano reduction along with a full orchestral score, but the last two never materialized. Raphael Wallfisch was inspired by this intriguing concept and he asked the distinguished Swiss composer Arthur Lilienthal to adapt the full score for strings. The result, heard on this recording, and which Raphael has performed many times in concert, lends fresh clarity and lightness to the texture, allowing the soloist even more freedom, especially at the low dynamic levels the composer calls for. Raphael has played it with very small orchestras, often without conductor, which emphasizes even more the pure chamber qualities of this wonderful work.
With that in mind it seemed highly appropriate to place the concerto in the context of Schumann’s other works for cello (the Stücke im Volkston), together with the exquisite pieces written for single instrument and piano; ‘songs without words’ in the vein of his friend Felix Mendelssohn.
'Wallfisch plays the solo part with his customary eloquence and intensity of expression...As always, John York follows the contours of Wallfisch's melodic line with remarkable unanimity of ensemble.' BBC Music Magazine, October 2014
'Wallfisch and York are beautifully attuned to each other, and the recorded sound by Nimbus has an exemplary full-bodied quality...There is no comparative discs that take you through the same sequence presented here, and lovers of Schumann should definitely hear it for its distinctive statement on the composer and the cello.' International Record Review, October 2014
'Raphael Wallfisch offers a convincing performance, phrasing with warmth and agility, while at the transition into the slow movement he achieves an affecting level of poignancy...Wallfisch's Schumann extras with piano are nicely done, the Fünf Stücke im Volkston delivered in the main with a light touch both by Wallfisch and by his fine pianist John York, the Three Romances, Op 94, and the Op 73 Fantasy Pieces similarly eloquent in a relaxed, unassuming way (barring the fiery last movement of Op. 73), the Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, in many respects the discs's highlight. Gramophone, December 2014