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Du Pré, Barenboim: Dvořák – Cello Concerto, Silent Woods (SACD)

Du Pré, Barenboim: Dvořák – Cello Concerto, Silent Woods (SACD)
Du Pré, Barenboim: Dvořák – Cello Concerto, Silent Woods (SACD)

Composer: Antonín Dvořák
Performer: Jacqueline du Pré
Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: DSD64 (iso)
Label: EMI
Size: 1.97 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, B191 (Op.104):
01. I. Allegro
02. II. Adagio ma non troppo
03. III. Finale (Allegro moderato)

04. Silent Woods B182 (Op.68/5)

Dvořák composed his cello concerto in USA in 1895. This concerto was a great success when it was premiered, a success that has continued to accompany him ever since. It has become a sort of obligatory passage for great performers. Brahms himself, having heard it, would have exclaimed: “Why didn’t you say you could write a cello concerto like this? If only I had suspected it, I would have written one long ago.” After composing this concerto, Dvořák did not write any more concertos! It shines like a lonely star, all inwardly.
He sees himself deeply marked by nostalgia for his native country. However, Dvořák doesn’t let his art give way to him, & optimism always prevails.

The 1st movement is distinguished by the unusual length of its orchestral introduction, which seems to prepare the soloist’s startling entry. The 1st notes of the cello sound firm & peremptory & the development that follows crosses powerful states of mind, developing a melodic richness that reaches lyricism.
The 2nd movement, introduced & sustained with melancholy sweetness by the wind panel, develops a sumptuous melody on the cello (a deep but restrained emotion). An orchestral tutti suddenly appears. Then a new melodic theme unfolds, also of great beauty. Dvořák might have composed or modified this movement after receiving the news of the serious illness of his sister-in-law, Josefina Cermakova, with whom he had been in love before his marriage.

In the last movement, the orchestra & soloist train each other in upward momentum of heroic vigor. Everything evolves, interspersed with more thoughtful passages, notably the cello coda, which would have been added by Dvořák after the news of the death of his beloved sister-in-law. But irresistibly the tone rises in joy until the final conclusion, perhaps foreshadowing the happiness of returning home.

The calm of the forest is a lyrical piece that comes with time “Lent et très chantante” for the introduction, a dream theme in D flat major, recovered after an interlude (a little rougher) in C sharp minor. The initial project, Op. 68, took place in 1883 at the request of Fritz Simrock. Famous for his arrangements of popular works for other instruments, Dvořák arranged the 5th piece for cello & piano, on the occasion of a farewell tour that was prepared with violinist Ferdinand Lachner & cellist Hanus Wihan , before setting sail for the New World. The arrangement reached such fame that Dvořák made a new arrangement for cello & orchestra.

The Barenboim / Du Pré couple married in 1967 & were celebrated as the darlings of the classical music world. Their story was steeped in youth, glamour & passion – & their romance was compared to that of Robert & Clara Schumann. But within 2 years, Jacqueline Du Pré became ill. She underwent a very simple & minor operation, completely without difficulty, but for which she had general anaesthesia, & when she woke up she had no sensation in certain parts of her body.
Another version of her history does not mention this anaesthesia, but says in 1973 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, &, except for a pair of performances that year & some sonata recordings (Chopin & Franck), her career as a performer was over. She remained active as a teacher, however, for many years afterwards. In 1976, she was awarded the O.B.E., & in 1982 she was named Musician of the Year by the Incorporated Society of Musicians. She passed away on October 19, 1987, at the age of 42.

Review on
This was never a favourite of mine on the original HMV LP because of the balancing mismatch–a huge cello which dominates even the sound of the orchestra in full cry–the Chicago Symphony, no less. Du Pre plays beautifully, Barenboim supports her very well, & the orchestra is–well, the Chicago Symphony. The SACD seems somehow to cure the balance issues to some degree by filling out the orchestral sound picture. The orchestra may not be quite as clear or transparent as on the LP, but overall I prefer the SACD over the LP, & certainly over the RBCD I have heard. However, I should also point out that there are 2 live RBCD alternative Du Pre recordings I know of, a straightforward performance with Charles Groves which swims a bit in the acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall, & a fascinating & well-recorded performance with Celebidache, of all people, which is a bit of a tug of war on occasion, but in which Du Pre seems to be having the time of her life. The latter was available on 2 labels (DG & Teldec, if I remember correctly) & is well worth looking for.

“Jackie was always the most exciting cellist,” Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline du Pré’s fellow-cellist, has said. “It would be hard to think of another that took as many risks as she did … always for expressive reasons. There is no other artist who can transfer that sense of excitement onto vinyl.” Here, with Daniel Barenboim & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, du Pré performs perhaps the most widely-loved of all cello concertos, Dvořák’s lyrical & stirring epic.

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