This fine recording of Dvorák's Cello Concerto by Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey with Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra is as generous, honest, and compelling as the music itself. Wispelwey has a rich, ringing tone that can ride over orchestral tutti fortes yet still sound fully present in intimate pianissimos. He also has an elegant technique that can accomplish anything the work asks without calling undue attention to itself. These qualities allow him to lean into the work's powerful drama and aching lyricism without dividing his attention. The commanding Fischer leads the rich-toned Budapest Festival Orchestra in an accompaniment as musically interesting and dramatically significant as the solo part.
OK, are you ready for something completely different? From someone who has already recorded two complete sets of Bach's six suites for solo cello, BWV 1007-1012, no less? Where to begin? Dutch historical-performance specialist Pieter Wispelwey disregards the long performance tradition associated with these six suites, which seem like cousins to Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin but are actually quite different in character (there are no sonatas, for one thing). Even players of the Baroque cello sometimes seem to have Pablo Casals' magisterial recordings in their heads, but Casals is not in the building at all for these readings. They seem to rest on three principles.
…Wispelwey plays an English instrument by Barak Norman (1710) whose bright, immediate timbre is a welcome asset in these sonatas. An involving issue, enhanced by discreetly balanced and mercifully uncoloured recorded sound.
Walton's concerto was commissioned by Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, whose reputation as a performer was such that he inspired works by no less than Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Hindemith. Though the concerto was not very well received by critics following its first performance, it is probably the result of Walton's singular aesthetic sensibility and place- perceived as an old-fashioned Romanticism in the post-war period. Wispelwey's performance effortlessly shifts through the strong rhythmic passages and the moments of serenity called for by Walton's composition. The recording also includes three compositions for solo cello: Bloch's Suite no. 1, Ligeti's Sonata for solo cello, and Walton's Passacaglia. The CD is book-ended with Britten's Ciaccona (Cello suite no. 2, op.80) which will clearly establish why Wispelwey is considered one of the foremost Britten interpreters.