Wednesday, 13 December 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, December 2017)

VICTOR HERBERT Cello Concertos
Mark Kosower, Cello
Ulster Orchestra / JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.573517 / ****1/2

The Dublin-born American composer Victor Herbert (1859-1924) was a virtuoso cellist and bandleader before making his fame by writing musicals such as Babes In Toyland. His two cello concertos deserve to be heard mostly because they are filled with good memorable tunes besides being totally concert-worthy vehicles for cello virtuosos.

The First Cello Concerto in D major (1884) is slightly longer and in the traditional three-movement form that is shared by most Romantic concertos. His Second Cello Concerto in E minor (1894) is rather more famous, mostly because it had given the great Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak, then living in the States, ideas about writing his own cello concerto. The cyclical form with recurring themes contrasting the dramatic and lyrical, within three connected sections, makes it a concentrated but absorbing listen.

The likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Gautier Capucon have recorded it, both coupled with the Dvorak Cello Concerto. American cellist Mark Kosower is their equal and his disc provides further opportunities to explore unfamiliar territory. The splendid Ulster Orchestra directed by JoAnn Falletta adds Herbert's Irish Rhapsody (1892) which strings together popular Irish melodies of the time to glorious effect.      

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