SAINT-SAËNS

BBC Music Magazine - - CONCERTO -

Cello Con­certo No. 1 in A mi­nor

SCHU­MANN

Cello Con­certo in A mi­nor

TCHAIKOVSKY

Vari­a­tions on a Ro­coco Theme An­to­nio Me­ne­ses (cello); Royal North­ern Sin­fo­nia/clau­dio Cruz Avie AV 2373 60:29 mins

An­to­nio Me­ne­ses de­liv­ers tech­ni­cally im­mac­u­late and warmly ex­pres­sive play­ing through­out these three wellestab­lished 19th-cen­tury reper­toire works. In the first move­ment of the Schu­mann Con­certo he adopts an al­most ideal tempo, al­low­ing suf­fi­cient time for the long lyri­cal melodic lines to breathe but never dis­rupt­ing the nat­u­ral flow of the mu­si­cal ar­gu­ment. There’s a beau­ti­ful lyri­cal poise to the slow move­ment which con­trasts most ef­fec­tively with the lively and capri­cious ar­tic­u­la­tion in the Fi­nale.

Me­ne­ses’s ac­count of Saint-saëns’s First Con­certo, like the Schu­mann in A mi­nor, is no less en­joy­able, par­tic­u­larly the cen­tral Al­le­gretto con moto which has wonderful el­e­gance and re­pose. He also brings all the nec­es­sary dra­matic ur­gency to the outer sec­tions of the work, where the bravura of his run­ning semi­qua­ver pas­sages and oc­taves is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive.

Pre­dictably, the even more de­mand­ing tech­ni­cal hur­dles of Tchaikovsky’s Ro­coco Vari­a­tions are dis­patched with bril­liance. Al­though Me­ne­ses could per­haps af­ford to be a bit more un­but­toned in the play­ful hu­mour of Vari­a­tion 7, there’s much charm in the arabesques of Vari­a­tion 1, and the quiet in­tro­spec­tion of Vari­a­tions 3 and 6 is po­et­i­cally pro­jected.

All in all, these are beau­ti­fully recorded and very fine per­for­mances, per­haps at times lack­ing a cer­tain spark of in­di­vid­u­al­ity, but ben­e­fit­ing enor­mously from the ex­cel­lent play­ing of the Royal North­ern Sin­fo­nia con­ducted by Clau­dio

Cruz. In so many other con­certo record­ings, the orches­tral parts can sound rou­tine, but Cruz brings wel­come trans­parency to Schu­mann’s rich tex­tures, and the solo wood­wind play­ing in both the Saint-saëns and Tchaikovsky is de­light­ful and strongly char­ac­terised. Erik Levi

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