Colourful concertos with a touch of shock and awe
Cellist Edgar Moreau and Raphaël Merlin’s band are a force to be reckoned with, says Bayan Northcott
Gulda • Offenbach
Offenbach: Cello Concerto (Concerto Militaire); Gulda: Concerto for Cello, Wind Orchestra and Band Edgar Moreau (cello); Les Forces Majeures/raphaël Merlin Erato 9029552612 73:36 mins Only just 25 this year, Paris-born Edgar Moreau is evidently a cellist of exceptional gifts with a vibrant directness of delivery, absolute security of tone and intonation in all registers and a concentrated intentness in his playing that rivets the attention. Whether he also commands exceptional depths of expression is hard to judge from the works on this recording, since they demand none.
Before he became the so-called ‘Mozart of the Champs-elysées’, Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) was a virtuoso cellist himself, and his sprawling 42-minute Grand Concerto is a show-off piece: more a medley of jaunty or soulful tunes – none of them as memorable as his operettas – than a symphonic structure. Still, it is hard to imagine it better done than by Moreau, vividly supported by Raphaël Merlin’s recently founded young
Moreau is a cellist of exceptional gifts with a vibrant directness
orchestral collective Les Forces Majeures, recorded with real presence – if occasionally qualified by a faint whistling resonance from source unknown.
Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000) was one of postwar Vienna’s most renowned classical pianists, and teacher of Martha Argerich. But he was also a maverick who moonlighted in jazz, organised raves and composed copiously in a mad mix of styles. The five movements of his cello concerto have innocent enough titles such as ‘Idyll’ and ‘Menuett’ but teeter unpredictably between classical pastiche, mild modernism, rock-funk, Tyrolean sentimentality and vulgar marches. Moreau shapes the more serious central cadenza impressively, but, of the fun movements, one does wonder, once the shocks have worn off, what it all amounts to?
Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at www.classical-music.com
Riveting display: Edgar Moreau is commanding