Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elgar's Cello Concerto

Cello Concerto in E Minor. Op. 85
This was his last great work.
It was composed during the summer of 1919 at Elgar's cottage, 'Brinkwells', in Sussex. The premiere was on 27th October 1919 with Felix Salmond as the soloist and Elgar conducting the London Symphony at Queen's Hall. This performance was not well received. Frankly speaking, the audience did not know their elbow from their knee in appreciating a great work.
This concerto represents the disillusionment Elgar felt after the end of the first world war. This is also an introspective on death.
The Concerto opens with a solemn dramatic adagio recitative in the solo followed by a short cadenza . The violas then present the main theme that Elgar had composed while he was recuperating from a throat operation. The violas then pass the theme to the solo cello. The cello repeats it and then modifies it into a stronger, painful reinstatement. Then, the cello moves into a lighter-hearted and lyrical middle section moderato. The main theme is presented again as a transition and after an impassioned utterance, the movement whimpers before a pizzicato enters into the lento without a pause, later transforming into an allegro molto second movement which is a melancholy scherzo with orchestration of the greatest economy.
In the brief slow movement Adagio, there is still greater economy and solemnity; a continuous solo for the cello.
The finale Allegro Moderato which is a rondo where the excitement of the principal theme is broken by references to earlier themes and particularly to the mood of melancholy that makes this as one of Elgar's greatest works.
My favourite interpretation is the one by Sol Gabetta and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Copenhagen conducted by Mario Venzago. Another great version is the Jacqueline Du Pre with the London Symphony under Sir John Barbirolli.

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