Cellist Raphael Wallfisch www.raphaelwallfisch.com brings together two rare works for cello and orchestra by Mátyás Seiber and Antal Dorati on a new release from Nimbus that also includes Bartok’s Viola Concerto in Tibor Serly’s adaptation for cello and orchestra.
Raphael Wallfisch is joined on this new disc by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales www.bbc.co.uk/bbcnow conducted by Gábor Takács-Nagy http://gabortakacsnagy.com
Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960) was born in Budapest, Hungary and studied with Kodály at the Budapest Academy. He taught jazz at the Hoch Conservatory before moving to England in 1935 where he taught at Morley College. He died in a car crash in South Africa during a lecture tour of the country. Jazz and folk influences combine with his admiration for Bach, Haydn, Bartok and Schoenberg. His works include a cantata Ulysses, a setting of James Joyce (1947); a much admired Third Quartet (1951) and Violin Sonata (1960) as well as a number of works for solo instruments and orchestra such as his Tre pezzi for cello & orchestra (1956) that is recorded here.
The Adagio has a subdued opening for cello and orchestra before the music brings an anxious little theme with Raphael Wallfisch bringing a fine emotional pull to the music. The adagio rarely rises above its anguished, subdued nature, particularly in the cello part. Midway, there is a faster section with pizzicato cello but this quickly leads into a dramatic section before falling back to its original subdued melancholy nature with a hushed end.
The Capriccio opens on a solo cello chord before quickly moving forward with the orchestra in a fast moving, scurrying section, full of staccato and pizzicato motifs from soloist and orchestra. There follows a section where the cellist and orchestra repeat an incisive motif in this rather quixotic movement full of strange little ideas, often pointed up by percussion. There is some terrific playing from Wallfisch before the sudden end.
Epilogue. Lento opens quietly with cello and orchestra in a withdrawn theme that Wallfisch wistfully draws out whilst a flute adds to the mood. The music gently develops its uncertain, reticent theme as Wallfisch slowly weaves the melancholy cello line through moments of rare sustained hushed passages. Woodwind add intervals that have a rather serial feel to them with Wallfisch providing some lovely moments before the music fades away.
Antal Dorati (1906-1988) www.dorati.com will be best known to many as one of the great conductors of the 20th century. He was also born in Budapest, becoming conductor of the Royal Opera there. He went on to work with ballet companies in Europe and the USA before being appointed Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He later held appointments with the Minneapolis Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Many of his recordings are legendary.
His compositions include two symphonies (1956/7 and 1985), chamber works, choral and vocal works and his Concerto for cello & orchestra (1977) that is included on this new disc.
The Recitativo. Moderato molto rubato opens with a tentative motif for cello which, when it opens out, is joined by pizzicato chords from the orchestra. The music soon develops into a broader theme before rising up dramatically in the orchestra. The tempo slows when the soloist takes the theme forward, with a fine orchestral accompaniment. Midway, the soloist leads the orchestra forward in an earnest theme; there are orchestral outbursts and motifs that are a little reminiscent of Bartok. Eventually the music develops into a lovely romantic melody before quietly closing.
The second movement is in the form of a Theme and Variations commencing with a gently flowing Theme. Andante Tranquillo that opens with the solo cello and is soon expanded by the orchestra before being subjected to a series of five variations. There is a strange little Notturno where the soloist is accompanied by woodwind as the melody is woven, Bulgarese a rhythmic variation, light-hearted and whimsical an Ostinato variation, heralded and pointed up by tubular bells, with Wallfisch bringing a fine tone and much expression, before leaping into a Scherzo with whip cracks and a fast flowing variation. A Canzone follows, which brings back a more subdued nature with some fine blending of textures between soloist and orchestral strings before a Coda where a wistful cello line is accompanied by woodwind before winding the theme to a strange, rather unresolved end.
The orchestra open the Finale. Allegro playing an apparently untroubled melody, soon joined by the cello in this confident and relaxed music. The theme grows more incisive and dramatic in the orchestra, picked up by the soloist before a heart-felt cello passage. The music again picks up with some fiendish passages for cello brilliantly played by Wallfisch but soon resumes the opening theme in a rhythmically slow plodding version. The music suddenly breaks out in the orchestra in a forward moving, rather romantic melody joined by the cello as it develops the theme with some absolutely terrific playing from Wallfisch. Later the orchestra rise again before leading to a fine flowing passage with cello followed by a cadenza to which Wallfisch brings all his fine technique including some unusual rhythmic passages, before the melody leads forward concluding with a flourish from the soloist.
Béla Bartók (1881-1945), recognised as one of the most important composers of the 20th century, was born in Sînnicolau Mare in Hungary (now in Romania). Inspired by Hungarian traditional songs and dances he incorporated folk modes and irregular rhythmic patterns into his highly original works. In 1940 Bartok left war-torn Europe for the USA where he and his second wife gave concerts, received a research grant to work on a collection of Yugoslav folksongs and received some commissions. His financial situation remained precarious as did his health.
Bartok’s Viola Concerto (1945) was commissioned by violist William Primrose. However, the composer’s health deteriorated and the work was left in sketch form at his death from leukaemia in 1945. Pupil, composer and violist, Tibor Serley assembled and completed the concerto between 1945 and 1949. Since then there have been a number of revisions by others culminating in a new edition prepared by Nelson Dellamaggiore with editorial advice from violist Paul Neubauer and overseen by the composer’s son Peter Bartok.
Here we have a recording of the Viola Concerto (1945) adapted for cello by Tibor Serly, played from the edition by Peter Bartok and Nelson Dellamaggiore (1993/2003).
Raphael Wallfisch soon shows how much the cello can add to this work in the opening Allegro moderato. Wallfisch brings a fine flexibility in the rapidly developing passages with some lovely thoughtful passages creating anticipation and an inner mystery. There is some fine crisp, incisive playing and some pretty agile passages as the movement progresses. Wallfisch’s lovely tone appears as the Lento slowly unfolds, seamlessly moving from restrained to anguished with lovely, hushed, sensitive accompaniment from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy pulling out so many fine moments, quite lovely, before leading into the Finale. Allegretto full of fire and drama with a real sense of urgency. There, Takács-Nagy really lets the orchestra go, at times with some lovely rhythmic moments, so Hungarian as well as fine intricate passages, finely played by Wallfisch.
Surely Bartok would have approved of this adaptation, particularly in such a fine performance as this.
Raphael Wallfisch combined his formidable technique and lovely tone with an ability to extract so much feeling from this music. Who better than the Hungarian conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy to conduct the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in this repertoire.
They are beautifully recorded at Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales and there are informative booklet notes. This is a really fine collection of Hungarian works for cello and orchestra that I wouldn't wish to be without.