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Topic: Great Cello Concertos

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Posted by Romy the Cat on 07-04-2006

Unquestionably to me, piano concertos are the very much The Concertos for an instrument and orchestras. My second favorite is Cello Concertos. The violin concertos are popular and they great but I frequently find that they might be annoying, particularly if performance is not the best and it is was too up-closed recorded. The viola and double bass concertos are too rare unfortunately but I love a lot the few available. Therefore, my full hart goes to Cello Concertos.

There are many Cello Concertos composed. The Wikipedia lists is large list but even that is not complete.

I would like to mention a few most popular greatest Cello Concertos and name some distinctive recordings. The Concertos will me mentioned without any order and the performances will be mentioned without any order as well. The most distinctive among the mentioned, if there is more ten one, will be marked with ***

Dutilleux Rostropovich with Serge Baudo and Orchestre de Paris
Truls Mork with Myung-Whun Chung and Philharmoniq de France Radio ***
Shostakovich #1 Rostropovich with Ormandy with Philadelphia ***
Rostropovich with Kondrashin and Czech Philharmonic
Shostakovich #2 Truls Mork with Jansons and London Philharmonic ***
Natalia Gutman with Temirkanov and Royal Philharmonia
Heinrich Schiff with Maxim Shostakovich and Bavarian Radio
Schnittke #2 Valery Polyansky with Ivashki and Russian State Symphony
Lutoslawski Rostropovich with Witold Lutoslawski and Orchestre de Paris ***
Bauer with Wit and some Polish Symphony
Brahms Double Heifetz/Feuermann with Ormandy and pre-war Philadelphia
Francescati/Fournier with Walter and Columbia Symphony
Oistrakh/Fournier with Galliera and Philharmonia
Ferras/Tortelier with Paul Kletzki and London
Thibaud/Casals with Cortot with French orchestra
Starker/Schneiderhan with Fricsay and Berliner Rundfunk
Heifetz/Piatigorsky with Wallenstein and RCA Victor Symphony ***
Szeryng/Starker with Haitink and Concertgebouw
Boccherini Jacqueline du Pre with Barenboim and English Chamber
Casals with Ronald and London ***
Prokofiev Concertante Rostropovich with Rozhdestvensky and USSR State
Rostropovich with Ozawa and London
Ivashkin with Polyanskii and Russian State Symphony
Rostropovich with Samosud and Moscow Philharmonic ***
Harrell with Ashkenazy and Royal Philharmonic
Truls Mork with Järvi and Birmingham Orchestra
Maisky with Pletnev and Russian National
Haydn #1 and #2 Wispelwey with van Steen and Netherlands Radio
Bylsma with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Fournier with Münchinger and Stuttgart Chamber ***
Vogler with Güttler and Virtuosi Saxoniae
Jacqueline Du Pre with Barbirolli and London ***
Jacqueline Du Pre with Barenboim and English Chamber
Janos Starker with Schwarz and Scottish Chamber ***
Dvorak Paul Tortelier with Malcolm Sargent and Philharmonia  ***
Casals with Rafael Kubelik and Czech Philharmonic ***
Casals with Szell and Czech Philharmonic
Fournier with Szell and Cleveland
Rostropovitch with Karajan and Berlin
Rodrigo #1 Sebastian Hess with Yinon and Hannover Radio
Rodrigo #2 Cohen with Batiz and London Symphony
Bruch Pablo Casals   with Ronald and London Symphony
Delius Jacqueline du Pre with Sargent and Royal Philharmonic
Strauss Don Quixote variations Jacqueline du Pre with Adrian Boult and New Philharmonia
Monn Jacqueline Du Pre with Barbirolli and London
Martinu #1 Chuchro with Zdenek Kosler and Czech Philharmonic
Khachaturian Tarasova with Dudarova and Symphony of Russia
Lidstrom with Ashkenazy and Gothenburg Symphony
Weinberg Rostropovitch with Rozhdestvensky and Moscow Philharmonic
Drobinsky with Mnatsakanov and Russian Radio Orchestra
Shchedrin Ylonen with Olli Mustonen and Helsinki Philharmonic
Rostropovich with Ozawa and London ***
Yltsen with Mustonen and Helsinki Symphony
Grechaninov Ivashkin with Polyansky and Russian State Symphony
Elgar Jacqueline Du Pre with Barbirolli and London ***
Pablo Casals with Boult and BBC Symphony ***
Heinrich Schiff with Elder and Halle Orchestra
Robert Cohen Mackerras with Royal Philharmonic
Britten Truls Mork with Simon Rattle and City of Birmingham
Rostropovich with Britten and Moscow Philharmonic ***
Schumann Mischa Maisky with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Starker with Skrowaczewski and London
Du Pre with Barenboim and New Philharmonia Orchestra ***
Rostropovich with Rodzhstvensky and Moscow Philharmonic
Rostropovich with Rodzhstvensky and Leningrad Philharmonic
Rostropovich with Samosud and Moscow Philharmonic
Rostropovich with Bernstein and National de France
Yo-Yo-Ma with Colin Davis and Bavarian Radio Symphony
Schiff with Haitink and Berlin Philharmonic
Piatigorsky with Barbirolli and London ***
Miaskovsky Mork with Järvi and Birmingham Orchestra
Rostropovich with Svetlanov and Russian State ***
Maisky with Pletnev and Russian National
Saint-Saëns Du Pre with Barenboim and New Philharmonia Orchestra ***
Starker with Dorati and London ***
Rostropovich with Giulini and London
Tchaikowsky Rococo Variations Rostropovich with Rozhdestvensky and Leningrad
Rostropovich with Karajan and Berlin
Rose with Szell and NY Philharmonic
Yo-Yo Ma with Lorin Maazel and Pittsburgh Symphony
Starker with Dorati and London ***

Posted by clarkjohnsen on 07-06-2006
You leave one concerto out which is very, very good -- I won't tell you what, but I'll play it some time.

As to performances -- I could add a dozen!


Posted by Romy the Cat on 07-06-2006
 clarkjohnsen wrote:
As to performances -- I could add a dozen!
Please do so; this is a part of the game. I will add then into the grid for permanent reference...

The caT

Posted by Amphissa on 07-18-2006
I suppose it is appropriate for my first post on this board to be about cello music. Since my wife is a cellist, I have had the opportunity to collect a great deal of cello music recordings -- although unlike Clark, my collection does not include 78s.

You are right about the Wikipedia list of cello concerti. In fact, I passed along to them last week a list of a dozen more composers of cello concerti to add to the list. Perhaps it will be updated soon.

I am not as impressed with Casals as you are. Yes, he is a sentimental favorite and I have many of his recordings. But by today's standards, his technique is often sloppy and interplay with orchestra often leaves much to be desired. So even if we think of him as the father of cello, IMO, his recordings are rarely among the best available.

I have all but one of the existing recordings of the Myaskovsky concerto. The ones you mention are good and I would be happy with any of them, but my favorite is by Natalia Gutman on Melodiya LP. I do not think this has ever made the transition to CD.

I assume you are referring to the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No. 1. He did write a second concerto, although it is rarely recorded. In fact, the only recording I've heard is the one by Isserlis.

You list Schnittke's Concerto No. 2, but what about the real monster, No. 1? Like the Viola Concerto, it is among his best compositions. The recording by its dedicatee, Natalia Gutman, is raw and passionate. Quite different is the more recent recording by Ivashkin, which is more polished and singing. I am also very fond of the recording by Carlos Prieto, who premiered the work in many countries outside Russia, but recorded it with a Russian orchestra.

There are many interesting works for cello and orchestra, of course. Maybe we can add more to your list.

Posted by Romy the Cat on 07-18-2006

Hey, David, it is nice to see you around – the heavy musical artillery came eventually to my site.

Regarding Casals, yes it might be sentimental but he should be heard on 78s or with better transfer to appreciate completely his “complexity”. Still I am in a way agree with you that Casals might lack some testerone.

I did not mention Schnittke No. 1 because I am not familiar with this concerto. I know it exist but I do not recall I heard it. Schnittke music could be “interesting” and could be unbearable… I will put his Cello No. 1 on my list for this summer to listen.

Yes, please post additions to the List and I will enter them into the Grid.


Posted by Romy the Cat on 11-16-2008

The last night Alban Gerhardt played Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with BSO under Marek Janowski.

I did not go to the concert but was listening the concert lives over WCRB. Alban Gerhardt has reportedly a very good cello but I did not particularly like how he played too little nuance and shadows but instead the obnoxious and bold presentation.

Today, Marek Janowski leads Pittsburgh Symphony with Haydn’ s Cello Concerto No 2 on, WBHR live- to-tape. The Bostonian Alisa Weilerstein plays cello part and I generally like her. It starts in two hours and it might be very interesting, even though I do not like Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall.

Next week Gennady Rozhdestvensky lead Boston Symphony with Lynn Harrell plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto. This might be very good as Lynn Harrell might be offensively good. The next week Elgar will be broadcasted LIVE on Friday by WBHR and on Saturday by WCRB. I am not planning to go but it the Friday’s play will turn good then I might go on the last concert on Thursday.

Is anything else a cello lover might wish for?
The Cat

Posted by tuga on 11-16-2008
This year I was lucky enough (for a guy with a young kid and a little baby) to be able to hear both these concerts live with one of the local orchestras, the Gulbenkian Orchestra (

Dvorak's was played by a rather uninteresting Jian Wang with Christian Badea conducting but Elgar's by Truls Mork with Lawrence Foster conducting was good.


Posted by twogoodears on 11-23-2008
I'm very fond of Ernest Bloch's "Schelomo - (Hebraic Rhapsody for Violoncello Solo and Full Orchestra)", followed on the same DECCA SXL 6440 disc and always by Bloch, by "Voice in the Wilderness (Symphonic Poem for Orchestra with Violoncello Obbligato)".
Zubin Mehta, Israel Philarmonic Orchestra AND... Janos Starker - Cello, them all made of this very record one of most haunting Cello w.Orchestra discs ever in my collection. IMO, Schelomo's the winner. I love it. Everyone's aware of its merits out there?

Posted by Romy the Cat on 11-23-2008
Hm, I am not familiar with Starker’s take on Schelomo. I have his Jewish sketches with some Japanese pianist. Well, whoever he did worth having… BTW, have you seen Rostropovich playing Schelomo:

Posted by twogoodears on 11-23-2008
Superb tone!
I saw and listened to Maestro Rostropovich two times, both in my town... cello/piano on Beethoven, a fantastic performance, but cannot remember who the pianist was and once with Solisti Veneti (chamber orchestra) playing Boccherini and other italian composers... it was many years ago, but I remember I was in tears after few minutes after concert beginning.
It, unfortunately, happens to me when I'm REALLY enjoying music... without shame, slow, heavy tears which I leave rolling on my face 'til they're cold. 

Posted by Romy the Cat on 11-23-2008

 twogoodears wrote:
It, unfortunately, happens to me when I'm REALLY enjoying music... without shame, slow, heavy tears which I leave rolling on my face 'til they're cold. 

It has nothing to do with unfortunately or fortunately. It is what it is. However, there is a common aspect in this that I might attribute to mechanics of listening experiences. Leaving aside the internal and deep-cognizant reasoning for crying (that is very complex subject and I would like do not go there) there is a common tendency for the moments when the tears are rolling.

If we refer to my 6 level stratification of listening perception

1) Static perception
2) Dynamic perception
3) Emotional perception
4) Esthetic perception
5) Ethical perception
6) Re-Creative perception
7) Not Named Level

.. . then it crying is a stage when level 3 and 4 are well-developed but there is a certain arrest above 4th level. It might be composing, performing, equipment of listening blockade. They all have own ways to block a move to Ethical perception. With a certain training it is possible to navigate own awareness across this barrier and kind of develop the “soft clipping” that engages the 3 and 4 levels but if the music permits it then would take listening awareness further. I experimented with it a few years back – it works very manageable.

If you would like to make your feet wet in this field then try to play with external sedatives and while monitoring listening perception. For instance get a composite (in different “moods”) reference where your perception stops in regards to music that has a lot of context at 5th level (Most of Beethoven for me). Then drink some CH2OH (the amount of alcohol would depend from your own body and habits). Pay attention, now with the very same music that has a lot of Ethical content your perception mostly get developed at levels 3 and 4. So, why do you think the specific interpretation of the work of the specific aspects of playback might not do the same?

I know it is a bit away from the subject of “Great Cello Concertos” but to me cellos, contrabasses and bassoon  and … oboes bring “it” more than anything else…

The Cat

Posted by twogoodears on 11-23-2008
Tears theory: interesting... BUT, most important, and this REALLY find me fully agreeing, you named my very "King of the Orchestra": Its Majesty the Double-Bass!
I own about eighty records of double-bass music: orchestra, solo, solo & piano, contemporary and classical and jazz... the player's player Ludwig Streicher, down to Gary Karr, and many, many others... the composers are Bottesini, Dragonetti and many, lesser known others... well: I guess it's not a casuality you, like myself, find double bass so moving... cello, bassoon, oboe, double-bass are, as I'm concerned, the most voice-like instruments.
Them all own an human-like voice, male or female, seldom found in other instruments... they're mighty, God-like, or siren-voiced or the voice of a fairy or a witch... but nonetheless whatever the similarities, they remind to human voices. Nothing is more moving than a voice... it's my strong opinion here is the point, like in Grieg's Peer Gynt, notably Ase's Death movement and the moaning, soulful strings lament... isn't it a voice-like piece? Composer's and personal experiences mixes and...
... and how I cry, always... it's music to listen to when a "bluesy", meditative mood is already there... AFTER this listening, I usually feel MUCH better. Healing music.
What do you think?

Posted by Romy the Cat on 11-23-2008

 twogoodears wrote:
Tears theory: interesting... BUT, most important, and this REALLY find me fully agreeing, you named my very "King of the Orchestra": Its Majesty the Double-Bass!

It you like contrabass then in context of this thread I might pitch you a recording that you most likely do not know. In this recording the Double-Bass plays very much like cello but it has some “reserve” at lower octave – very interning. It plays by the most beautiful-sounding in my view contrabass known today, the former Kousevitzky bass. It is 17 century Amati and it is true  the “King of the Basses”.

The recording I refer was made here in Boston by Gary Karr (who took over the Kousevitzky bass) and it is not available from normal resellers. You can get it only from Gary Karr’s personal web site:

The disc I am taking about called “The Spirit of Koussevitzky” and it is the item number: R252 on their only store.  Be very careful however. After you heard what Gary Karr and Kousevitzky bass did with Scriabin preludes you will be willing to buy anything Gary Karr ever recorded. Do not do it. I did and I do not like everything that Gary Karr plays. Some of his play is truly remarkable.

The Cat

Posted by Romy the Cat on 11-25-2008

In her autobiography  Galina Vishnevskay  (the Rostropovich’s wife) wrote (translation is mine):

“In Moscow we spent only three weeks, and then by plane we returned to London to participate in the Festival of Soviet Art, just before 21 August 1968 - the opening day of the festival, where Slava was playing with the USSR  State Symphony Orchestra Dvorak Cello Concerto. That day I will remember to the rest of my life.

The morning after breakfast we took a walk. On the streets – there were crowds bearing posters: "Russians - Fascists!", "Russians, away from Czechoslovakia!" We were shocked, yet still without the knowledge that the most disgraceful act in the history of our nation took place. We run back to the hotel, turn TV on, and see all stations showing the Soviet tanks are crawling across Prague’s plazas and streets.

So, it is true. As is clear and well seen: the Soviet soldiers have lost and disappointed faces ... Thousands of people are on sidewalks... They did not resist, but how desperate they look to their former brothers! Many are crying, others shouting something, pushing away the steel monsters with bare hands… Then camera moved to other end of the square, and we see several women jointing hands, rushed to the ground - scrolling across the road directly under tanks! I cried in horror. ... But thank you, Lord, the tanks stopped...

Slava, like mad was running around room. - Galina, what can we do? What a shame! Criminals! I am ashamed to go to a concert today. We are Russians, Soviets!

There was also a coincidence: in London, in this tragic for the entire world day - the opening of the Soviet Art festival started with the Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. A few hours later, Slava stepped on the stage of the vast Albert Hall, along with musicians of the USSR State Symphony Orchestra. Behind the Hall’s walls the protest was storming, and inside six thousand people met the emergence of Soviet artists with long-lasting shouting, clatter and swish, not allowing the concert to start. Some shouted: "The Soviet fascists go away!" Others - "Shot up, the artists are not to blame!"

Pale and standing like on scaffold, Slava on the stage was taking in the disgrace for his criminal government, I closed my eyes being afraid to raise my head hide myself in a corner of my balcony. But finally the Hall calmed down. As a requiem for the Czech people the Dvorak music started and crying Rostropovich spoke through his violoncello. The Hall hold breath listening the  confession of a great artist, the artist  who merged in those minutes with Dvorak, with the soul  of Czech people, suffering with them, asking the people for forgiveness and praying for them.

I think all who were at the concert will never forget it. As soon the last note was over I ran backstage to Slava. Pale, with quaking lips, has not yet came down from his experience on stage, with eyes full of tears, he grabbed my arm and dragged to the exit: - “Let rush to hotel, I can not see anyone.”

We went out to the street – there were shouting protestants out there, waiting out to express their outrage to the orchestra’s artists. Seeing us both they suddenly turned silent and stepped away before us. In abrupt silence, looking at nobody, feeling ourselves criminals we quickly proceed to an expecting us car and returned to the hotel, finally being able to give ourselves to our despair. But what we can do? We did only what was in our power – we got drunk. This Czech event, unnoticed for ourselves, closed down the book of our erstwhile comfortable life…”

I have my bootleg of this recording. It is in stereo with very poor quality and it came to me on cassette tape. Eventually BBC in their “BBC Legends” has released a commercial recording of this event, it is mono but it is in way better quality then I have. It is not the best Rostropovich’s play of the concert. It is insultingly fast and it has own “kink”. It also futures a phenomenal accompaniment (probably the best I ever heard for Dvorak Cello Concerto) by USSR State Symphony (Svetlavov was conducting). Pay attention how strikingly interesting sounds that super-fast opening of the Concerto. It never was played like this! The rumors are that Russians played fast to scope down the time being on stage as they were afraid to be attacked with stones. Still, the whole play sounds very balanced, very professional and appropriately nervous. No meter what, there is some “tension” in the play of this concert. Hey how many time you heard about a musician going to play at a nation leading concert hall and insisting for a full insurance of his cello right before the performance?  Anyhow, it is BBCL 4110-2

Rgs, Romy the Cat

Posted by Paul S on 11-25-2008

Gut-wrenching story, Romy.  I will seek out the recording.  I well remember both that invasion and also R playing when the concrete part of the Berlin wall came down.

I wonder how US artists abroad felt as our country invaded Iraq, smashing the place back 50 years into the past and killing 1/2 million men, women and children while Bush strutted around on the aircraft carrier in his flight jacket and padded codpiece?

I am reminded again of the Americans who played fairly recently in North Korea, and thinking who should pity whom, for what.

Though all this is painful, may we Never Forget.

With the great artistic gifts comes inescapable responsibility, as wrong as that seems.

R was a Giant.

Best regards,
Paul S

Posted by el`Ol on 11-27-2008

Ligeti´s Cello concerto / Siegfried Palm

This CD is not only for specialists, also fits very well into a small "contemporary music for dummies" collection:
50$ used is absolutely justified.

Posted by Romy the Cat on 12-06-2008
 el`Ol wrote:

Ligeti´s Cello concerto / Siegfried Palm

This CD is not only for specialists, also fits very well into a small "contemporary music for dummies" collection:
50$ used is absolutely justified.

Thanks, that was very interesting. I bought the LP version of this CD, very good recording and very good play BTW. It is certainly the "contemporary music for dummies". I am not sure that it is my type of music but it is … I would say interesting and unquestionably it is exceptionally well done. I need to listen it a few times more.

The caT

Posted by Romy the Cat on 03-08-2009
Today WGBH broadcasted Antonio Pappano leading Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2 with a Korean cellist Han-Na Chang. I never head this girl and I had no idea what to expect. Anyhow, it was superb performance. Han-Na Chang said that she is Rostropovich student and he told her a lot about Shostakovich. Whatever he told he the play was beyond any expectation. The CSO was also superb – a phenomenal integration with lead cello- with beautiful dark tone, with bulky gloomy sound and with VERY smart tempo. Why BSO does not play like this? I will re-listen it next week but I actually enjoyed even more then what I remember the Rostropovich’s himself.

Posted by Amphissa on 03-08-2009

Han-Na Chang won the Rostropovich Cello Competition at age 11 in 1997. Her debut CD was Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saens in 1995 under the baton of Rostropovich. She lived near me, north of NY City. She earned the post of Associate Principal of New York Philharmonic when I lived there. (She gave up her dream to become a basketball player when she hurt a finger a few days before a concert. Haha!) After 9/11, she decided to leave NY and began study of philosophy at Harvard. This is when I decided to leave NY as well. I was very priviledged to hear her play often in NY. She is a very smart and talented young woman, with many diverse interests and knowledge. She has made 8 CDs. Hear her play any opportunity you have in Boston. She is very good.

Posted by Romy the Cat on 02-15-2011
Last Saturday BSO under Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki played a new work - Unsuk Chin’s cello concerto,  Alban Gerhardt played the lead. I do not know, folks. If this is the direction where “music went” then let call it a successful concerto. However, I made myself to listen after the Chin’s concerto the Chopin’s Sonata for cello and piano to assure my dilapidating sanity.  I can’t say Chin’s concerto was some kind of atonal avantgarde, it was not. Still, can they write a normal music with memorable melodies and non-fractured sound?

The Cat

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