Cello Concertos by Mid-Century Masters

What if classical music had taken a different turn in the mid-Twentieth century. Cellist Johannes Moser gives us a hint with his latest release of concertos. He presents three works by composers who all wrote in a somewhat tonal style.

Paul Hindemith wrote music that he believed to be the logical extension of the works of the great masters. His 1940 cello concerto is a brawny, intense work, meticulously constructed to work out its musical arguments. And yet there’s nothing stiff or academic about the piece. The concerto present its musical arguments in a forthright and natural manner.

Swiss composer Arthur Honegger was more concerned about melody. From the sweeping lyricism of the opening movements to the crashing chords of the finale, the cello sings its song accompanied by the orchestra. This 1930 work occasionally betrays a hint of jazz, but it never degenerates to cliche.

Boheslav Martinu’s music sounds like no one else’s. His chords shimmer, his harmonies slide about, always consonant, yet never quite settling on a particular key. The music is often propelled forward with engaging folk-based rhythms that help keep things slightly off-balance. Martinu’s first cello concerto, finished in 1930 isn’t a landmark composition, but it provides a solid introduction to the composer’s style.

Johannes Moser moves effortlessly through all three works, adapting his playing to the composer’s styles. Regardless of the technical challenges, his playing never sounds forced, and at times his cello seems to positively sing. The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie led by Christoph Poppen gives these works a spirited reading, nicely complementing Moser’s playing.

This is a new addition to the WTJU library, so listen for it on air.

Recommended to anyone interested in unusual repertoire. And if you *hate* 20th Century music, you really should get a copy of this disc!

Martinu, Hindemith, Honegger: Cello Concertos
Johannes Moser, cello; Deutsche Radio Philharmonie; Christoph Poppen, conductor
Hanssler Classics

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