It’s cellos all the way on tracks 4-8, “Arrangements for Solo Cello and Cello Ensemble” of Dvořák favourites, including Songs My Mother Taught Me and the Largo of the ‘New World’ Symphony. As an aperitif these work well enough – Kian Soltani and six cellists from Staatskapelle Berlin are sensitive advocates.
But bring on the main course … the Cello Concerto – I was so relieved to hear the opening clarinets, even if Daniel Barenboim sentimentalises the initial bars before accelerating into a blazing tutti, underpinned by potent left-positioned basses, and then a notable slowing for the horn-led (beautifully played) lyrical second subject. At 3’42” Soltani introduces himself with panache, if with wirier timbre than I was expecting, and he is soon showing his tender talent in Dvořák’s expressive writing, as do the Staatskapelle woodwinds. Bit by bit this live account (October 2018, Philharmonie) earns more plaudits, whether Soltani’s richer-toned, impassioned but not overwrought, approach or Barenboim’s detailed conducting – and the meshing of the two – although some orchestra-alone moments are more Brucknerian than Dvořákian.
The slow movement is a great success, very soulful, with some golden-toned and responsive playing from the horns (6’05”-6’59”), and an overall flexibility that corresponds well with the homesick composer’s variations of mood (this is a made-in-America piece) … and the Finale (adorned by an odd-sounding triangle, the orchestra now a little blowsy in fortissimo in relation to what has gone before) finds malleability taking precedence over a long line; this is of course a very meaningful work, but perhaps these performers too consciously seek to probe every nook and cranny of it. DG 483 6090. (I must dig out the Gendron/LPO/Haitink version, ex-Philips.)