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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hans Pfitzner - Cello Concertos (Alban Gerhardt)


Composer: Hans Pfitzner
  1. Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. posth: 1. Andante molto sostenuto – Allegro
  2. Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. posth: 2. Adagio molto tranquillo
  3. Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 52: 1. Ruhig
  4. Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 52: 2. Nicht zu schnell
  5. Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 52: 3. Feierlich
  6. Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 52: 4. Allegretto
  7. Cello Concerto in G major, Op. 42: 1. Ziemlich ruhig, schwebend -
  8. Cello Concerto in G major, Op. 42: 2. Sehr langsam - Beschleunigt - Allegro -
  9. Cello Concerto in G major, Op. 42: 3. Ruhiges Anfangstempo -
  10. Cello Concerto in G major, Op. 42: 4. A tempo -
  11. Cello Concerto in G major, Op. 42: 5. Langsamer a tempo
  12. Duo for cello and violin, Op. 43: 1. Allegro moderato -
  13. Duo for cello and violin, Op. 43: 2. Moderato -
  14. Duo for cello and violin, Op. 43: 3. Ganze Takte

Alban Gerhardt, cello
Gergana Gergova, violin (12-14)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Sebastian Weigle, conductor

Date: 2012
Label: Hyperion



Though billed as the fourth volume of Hyperion’s ‘The Romantic Cello Concerto’, most of the music on this disc was written during the 1930s and ’40s. Hans Pfitzner, notoriously, was a Nazi-sympathising conservative. But that doesn’t mean he was simply writing 19th-century music in the middle of the 20th century. The earliest and most fascinating composition here, a cello concerto dating from 1889 when he was a 19-year-old student, starts like a pious exercise in Schumannesque rumination but takes in startling and richly orchestrated outbursts evoking Wagner’s Venusberg; a reminder that Pfitzner’s finest hours would be in the opera house, with the ‘musical legend’ Palestrina (1912 15), and that he would eventually offer the kind of quirky angles on full-blown Romanticism that were only possible in retrospect.

When he returned to the cello concerto genre in 1935 it was with music of unusual concision, making his typically unsettling mixture of restraint and flamboyance even more effective than usual. The Duo for violin, cello and small orchestra (1937) is also concise but still manages to lapse into the kind of effusive drifting around unmemorable themes that is Pfitzner’s Achilles heel. The last concerto, from 1943, has a few similar episodes but is overall more characterful and eventful, its four short movements conveying an uneasy darkness of tone that is understandable, given the year of composition.

The Hyperion team provide a no less characterful recording, close to the music’s generally expansive sonorities without obscuring its many distinctive details. Alban Gerhardt is an unfailingly charismatic soloist, finding a sense of purpose where others might lapse into aimlessness, and the orchestral support is first-rate.

-- Arnold Whittall, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / RECORDING: ****


Hans Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist. His best known work is the post-Romantic opera Palestrina, loosely based on the life of the sixteenth-century composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Pfitzner's music, including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem, was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. His works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music. Pfitzner's students included musicians such as Otto Klemperer, Charles Münch and Carl Orff.


Alban Gerhardt (born 1969 in Berlin) is a German cellist, whose father, Axel Gerhardt, was a second violinist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for over 40 years. He studied with  Markus Nyikos, who he credits with much of his success. Gerhardt won top prizes in several competitions in the early 1990s. Gerhardt has won three ECHO Klassik Awards, ICMA and MIDEM Classic awards, as well as BBC Music Magazine Award in 2015. He has made several commercial records for Hyperion and Chandos Records. He plays a cello made by Matteo Gofriller in 1710; the instrument previously belonged to Benito Mussolini.


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