New Classical Tracks: Dvorak and Victor Herbertby Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
Dvorak's beloved Cello Concerto took inspiration from a surprising source -- a concerto by Victor Herbert, best known for operetta standards like "Babes in Toyland." On a new disc, Gautier Capucon plays both pieces, and the Herbert turns out to be a delightful surprise.
St. Paul, Minn. — A strong relationship can result in beautiful music. Just ask French cellist Gautier Capucon. Gautier
Capucon is an enthusiastic chamber musician who's been making music with Martha Argerich, Katia Labeque, Victoria Mullova, Daniel Barenboim and Jean-Yves Thibaudet to name a few. Capucon's latest musical adventure pairs him with Paavo Jarvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.
For his third concerto recording, Capucon puts his personal stamp on Dvorak's famous cello concerto, and the work that inspired that masterpiece, the Cello Concerto No. 2 by Victor Herbert.
Dvorak was in America in 1894 when he began composing his Cello Concerto in b minor. This concerto was his last composition written while he was serving as director of the New York Conservatory. While his "New World" Symphony was a greeting from America, this cello concerto looked back to his homeland.
In the tender adagio, Dvorak reminisces about the lost love of his youth, his sister-in-law Josefina Kaunitzova. Josefina wasn't in love with Dvorak, but she was quite fond of his song titled, "Leave me alone in my fond dream."
After a bold, orchestral outburst, the cello sings that lovely melody in its high register. Cellist Gautier Capucon's musical instincts are captivating. His exquisite phrasing intensifies the emotional impact of this movement.
Dvorak met Victor Herbert while both were teaching at the New York Conservatory. We may think of Herbert as a composer of light music. He wrote for the Ziegfield Follies and later, for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.
But he was also a cellist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and it was a performance of Herbert's second cello concerto that inspired Dvorak to write his own.
Dvorak was in the audience the night Herbert's second cello concerto premiered in 1894, and was completely mesmerized as Herbert demonstrated the full range of his instrument.
Gautier Capucon digs into this energetic concerto right away with quick strokes of the bow, yet the smooth, melodic line is never compromised. Paavo Jarvi's crisp, articulate conducting adds even more excitement to the first movement.
On this new recording, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra sometimes overpowers the soloist. In the tranquil slow movement of Herbert's cello concerto, however, the pizzicato in the lower strings is spot on. Gautier Capucon's expressive dynamic range and subtle vibrato is enchanting.
In the final movement, themes from the first two movements are revisited in a more comical way. Syncopated rhythms add vitality to this finale, which is reminiscent of an overture to a musical comedy. As the cello slides into the theme, you can almost picture Gene Kelly effortlessly singing in the rain.
Gautier Capucon is an incredible young talent with a magnetic personality that attracts special artistic relationships, like the one we hear on this new recording with Paavo Jarvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.
If you're looking for a definitive recording of the Dvorak cello concerto, there are plenty from which to choose. However, this version of Victor Herbert's second cello concerto is truly a delight.