Lebrecht's Album of the Week

Music for a warm bath

Bloch, Bruch, Dohnanyi (Claves)


There used to be a drivetime programme on BBC Radio 3 called Mainly for Pleasure. They changed the title when too many musicians referred to it as Strictly for Cash, but the formula got thrown away with the concept. We forget that music exists primarily for pleasure and we tend to disparage those albums and concerts that aspire to no higher purpose.

Here’s one. Tim Posner, principal cellist of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, has chosen three works for cello and orchestra for a signature release. Two are very Jewish and familiar, the third less so. Posner brings a freshness to all three, along with a laidback attitude that is very welcome in these stressful times and a lack of solemnity that is even more to be cherished.

Bloch’s Schelomo is delivered without the preachiness one sometimes hears from cellists who are trying too hard to justify a work that falls some way short of the Matterhorn summit. Schelomo’s Hebraic themes do not respond well to an excess of historicity. Just enjoy the music for what it is. 

Bruch’s Kol Nidrei is a concertification of the opening prayer of the Jewish Day of Atonement composed by a German Protestant who wrote it (he told his publisher) strictly for cash. Posner, once more, restrains the temptation to overstress the semitism and performs what he reads on the page with warmth and a touch of sensuality.

Erno von Dohnanyi, a contemporary of Bartok and Kodaly, was stuck in a Brahmsian rut when he wrote his 1904 Konzertstück for cello and orchestra. There are worse ruts to be stuck in than Brahms, although after a while you realise that Brahms did most things better. This is music for a warm bath or a sunny day in the park. Posner and the Berne Symphony find the pleasure spot and play it for all it’s worth. The conductor is Katharina Müllner, who’s Viennese. There is nothing in this record not to like.

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