Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 for Cello and Orchestra. Also, Pereira: Concertino for Cello and String Orchestra. Antonio Meneses, cello/director; Northern Sinfonia. Avie AV2176.
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was one of those composers who could seemingly do no wrong. Even though we probably know him best today for his symphonies (he wrote 104 of them, after all), he succeeded in practically every other musical form as well, from chamber to vocal to concerto works. The two cello concertos we find here are good examples.
According to the booklet note, the Cello Concerto No. 1 (1761-1765?) only came to light in the 1960's. It is quite charming (which is a redundant statement, I know, in reference to Haydn), and cellist Antonio Meneses appears to take as much delight in it as his audience undoubtedly will. The Concerto No. 2 (1783) came to light in the 1950's, and as he did with its companion, Haydn wrote it in orthodox concerto style, with fast-slow-fast movements (allegro-adagio-allegro). The quick tempos are sprightly rather than tiring and together with the more-leisurely moments give Meneses plenty of room to demonstrate a range of emotions from sweet and light to seriously elegant.
In between the two Haydn concertos the disc offers the Concertino for Cello and String Orchestra by Brazilian composer Clovis Pereira (b. 1932). The composer says he based the piece on "common Brazilian elements," including "modal scales only found in the music of the Mata Zone of north-eastern Brazil," as well as "melodies sung by the north-eastern 'cowboys' to calm their herds." Thus, we get a modern yet old-fashioned sounding concerto to set off the traditional, classical Haydn works. I had never heard the Pereira concerto before but found the opening movement original, the second movement gently romantic, and the closing Rondo rather festive. The Pereira piece makes an agreeable complement to the Haydn.
Avie's sound, recorded in 2009, is slightly close, the better to obtain the last possible iota of detail from Mr. Meneses's cello and the relatively small Northern Sinfonia ensemble spread out around him (and which he also directs). Even though the acoustic is tight, we never find any harshness or brightness in the sound (unless one's own speakers cause it). Instead, we get a smooth, rich, sharply etched sound that properly brings out the nuances of the music and provides pleasant demo fare for audiophiles seeking good midrange material.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to email@example.com.