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Audiophile Audition 10/09/2013
The passionate young cellist J-G Queyras and J. Belohlavek combine one that extols in loving terms the virtues of Elgar, Dvorak, and Tchaikovsky.

Recorded May 2012, these staples of the late Romantic cello repertory afford French cello virtuoso Jean-Guihen Queyras (b. 1967) simultaneously opulent and intimate  vehicles for his especial instrument, a 1696 Gioffredo Cappa. He collaborates for a second time on record with Czech musician Jiri Belohlavek, who recently completed his tenure with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (2006-2012).

The 1919 Elgar Cello Concerto may not have required yet another bravura performance on disc, but Queyras approaches the piece with a dazzling technique: fluent, light, and eminently supple. After the plaintive recitative, Queyras launches a series of brilliant affects, in turn lyrical, whimsical, melancholy, and robust that certainly rival the classic renditions of this grand music by Du Pre, Fournier, and Webber. The orchestral part, rendered by Belohlavek, a former cellist himself, attains a sumptuously ardent aura whose yearning quality – particularly in the B-flat Major Adagio - aligns the Concerto to the spirit of Schumann. The broad final movement combines grandiosity with pained resignation, a swagger worthy of Falstaff spliced to a bleak sensibility we assume Elgar inherited from Brahms.  The BBC low strings and winds provide a somberly lush texture for Elgar’s more polyphonic moments, when learned sarcasm and anguished nostalgia compete for emotional hegemony.

Coming between the Elgar and Tchaikovsky works, the two 1891 Dvorak pieces  – inspired by the composer’s admiration for Czech virtuoso Hanus Wihan – the Rondo in G Minor and Silent Woods exert the composer’s uncanny capacity for melodic and rhythmic invention. The secondary melody of the Rondo soars with an innocence protected by Mother Nature herself. In faster episode in G Major, Queyras demonstrates his own unbridled bravura, athletic and singing at once. The utterly charming (and dreamy) Klid (Serenity; Silent Woods) exploits mesmerizing textures in the form of muted strings, diviso violas, and a flute solo, all to prepare for the cello’s wide tessitura that sails to high A-flat down to D-flat. In the course of its progress, we feel that Tchaikovsky, especially Evgeny Onegin, has whispered to Dvorak’s imagination. Queyras and Belohlavek agree that the piece should play as an elegant idyll, rapturous and introspective.

Queyras made a conscious decision to record the Wilhelm Fitzhagen edition of the 1877 Rococo Variations, which he feel proves superior to Tchaikovsky’s original, by preserving structurally more of the work’s concertante character. Queyras takes a true andante for the main tune whose seven variants will test his technical wizardry. Transparent as well as fleet, the perfect ensemble of solo and orchestra luxuriates in the third and sixth variations, slow and poignantly introspective, in turn. Then, with a youthful exuberance worth the price of admission, Queyras rushes the Allegro vivo to a conclusion that transcends whatever “staid” or “merely ornamental” affects the epithet “rococo” may have meant residually.

Gary Lemco -
Audiophile Audition
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