On May 13th, Hänssler Classic released an album of cello concertos performed by the enormously gifted young German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser, who continues to thrill audiences around the world with stunning virtuosity and creative programming.
The album includes rarely heard works for cello and orchestra by 20th century composers Bohuslav Martinů, Paul Hindemith and Arthur Honegger. Conductor Christoph Poppen and the Deutsche Radio-Philharmonie perfectly capture the essence of these colorful, demanding scores – from Martinů’s jazzy syncopations to Hindemith’s intricate counterpoint, to Honegger’s one movement work that combines both.
All three composers had the misfortune of creating their highly individual, yet tonal scores, while Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Bartók were taking music in radical new directions. Of the programming on this disc, Moser was “quite especially fascinated by these masterpieces of the modern cello repertoire by composers who consciously avoided the path of serialism at the musical crossroads of the 20th century, consistently following their own very individual languages and creating highly dramatic works of musical theater for the cello. So it struck me as a natural,” he continued, “to bring them together in a program and in a sort of intellectual game, ask how our music and the accompanying New Music scene might have developed if these other approaches had been consistently advocated for by a larger number of supporters.”
The music of Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů has remained on the outskirts of mainstream classical music, though he has become somewhat of a cult figure for a growing group of admirers. Throughout his career he would experiment with many different stylistic approaches, from Neo-Baroque stylings to jazz – both of which are heard in his delightful Cello Concerto No. 1. Hindemith’s 1940 Cello Concerto, on the other hand, is the third and last of his Cello Concertos, which revives the concept of the soloist as a hero that admirably suits the temperament of the instrument. Honegger’s single movement Cello Concerto, in contrast is an amiable, urbanely lyrical work, with a distinct mixture of jazz—an influence that came both from Ravel and Gershwin – though spoken with a French accent.