Haydn: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (CD review)

Also, Boccherini: Cello Concerto in B flat. Jacqueline du Pre, cello;  Daniel Barenboim, English Chamber Orchestra; Sir John Barbirolli, London Symphony Orchestra. Warner Classics 0825646404155.

Perhaps owing something to the popularity of the 1998 movie about the English cellist Jacqueline du Pre, Hilary and Jackie, her old record company, EMI, re-released more of her work in the late 90's, giving her music a deserved new lease on life. After Ms. Du Pre's tragic death in 1987, her legacy could have been lost to all but the most avid music lovers. Thanks to EMI, however, and now Warner Classics, her Haydn and Boccherini are remastered and sound better than ever.

Her style in these pieces is, as always, sweetly expressive, warmly lyrical, broadly passionate, and I daresay by today's standards a little old-fashioned. Certainly, that's the way the music comes off compared to the less-adorned period-instrument renditions so much in vogue these days. She is best in both of the Haydn slow movements, where her natural affection for the music and for her instrument shine through effectively. The finale of the first concerto is a delight, too, full of youthful intensity and exuberance.

Jacqueline du Pre
The Boccherini is another story, through no fault of Ms. du Pre. In its familiar late-Romantic Grutzmacher arrangement, any resemblance between this piece and Boccherini seems purely accidental. It is so lushly orchestrated it could hardly be called Boccherini, and Ms. du Pre plays it in appropriate nineteenth-century fashion--long winded and luxuriant. There is nothing wrong with this approach, of course; it's just, again, a tad old-fashioned, and I'm happy for it.

The remastered sound of the first Haydn concerto and the Boccherini, recorded with Ms. du Pre's husband Daniel Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra in 1967, is ultra smooth and adequately revealing. It is not so clear, however, as either of the newer releases I reviewed at about the same time from Ha-Nah Chang and Giuseppe Sinopoli (EMI) or Steven Isserlis and Roger Norrington (RCA), although it is closer to the Chang in performance and closer to the Isserlis in audio quality.

The sound in the second Haydn concerto, recorded a few months later with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra, is very slightly better defined. None of this matters much as the ear adapts quickly to the beauty of the playing rather than obsessing with any sonic imperfections. Besides, unless you were to put on the other discs as I did for direct comparison in two identical-sounding CD players, you would find little fault in the sound of the older Du Pre recordings. As usual, Du Pre gets my wholehearted endorsement.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:

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Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa