Kian Soltani, Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim – Dvořák – Cello Concerto (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:02:25 minutes | 1,08 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Deutsche Grammophon (DG)
To say that Kian Soltani’s concerto debut for Deutsche Grammophon packs a punch is something of an understatement, and indeed long before Soltani even enters the fray, given that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an orchestra sounding quite so dangerously, growlingly foreboding and theatrical at the opening of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto as is heard here from Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin in what was a live performance at the Berlin Philharmonie: markedly slower than the score’s metronome marking of 116 to a crotchet; little shivering swells added to the pianissimo crotchets concluding the first phrase; then not just a crescendo up to the first fortissimo statement of the main theme, but also a rushing accelerando; while this revving of the accelerator ultimately lands us smartly at Dvořák’s actual tempo marking, the effect is one of being caught up in a lethally super-speed, supremely polished whirlwind. If you’re a stickler for keeping to the score then you might balk, but there’s no question that it’s electrifying stuff. And on that note, remember Karajan’s glorious bar 72 injection of an ardent and thoroughly unscripted portamento swoop for DG, back in 1968 with Rostropovich? Well Barenboim’s repeated that trick here, and every bit as gloriously.
Soltani himself is no less grabbing when he finally makes his entrance, displaying all the golden beauty of tone and poeticism we heard on Home, his recital debut for the label. Indeed the whole concerto represents a compelling combination of distinctive personalities, Soltani’s romance coming elegant and precise, softly polished and lyrically singing, against Barenboim’s coming ardently soaring one moment and craggily thunderous the next (and on that note, I’ve equally never heard the second movement’s sudden minor-keyed outburst – just before Dvořák quotes his sister-in-law and first love Josefina’s favourite song of his, referencing the fact that tragically she was dying as the concerto was being penned – explode in with such force as here). More Soltani-shaped pleasures come via the piercing urgency and biting rhythm he brings to the forceful, dance-like finale, a highlight of which is his lovingly exuberant and tightly together gypsy duet with the first violin; and back in the first movement, his sensitive duetting with the woodwind, who themselves are lovingly picked out by the engineering. In fact the overall engineering is another draw, the Philharmonie sounding wonderfully full and warm. Less enjoyable for some, meanwhile, will be the various rubatos and slackenings of the tempo applied to the softer passages, which can feel as though the breaks are being overly pulled.
Soltani sticks with Dvořák for the remainder of the album, teaming up with the Staatskapelle cellists for various shorter pieces: his own transcriptions of the Op. 55 Gypsy Melodies from Songs My Mother Taught Me and the Allegro moderato from Four Romantic Pieces Op. 75, alongside transcriptions of Silent Woods plus the Largo from the ”New World Symphony”. These are all elegantly done, with superb blending and chamber awareness, and once again play to all Soltani’s lyrical strengths. They’re also all of a similar “smooth classics” mood, which ultimately makes for a less compelling listen than the album’s first half, but which no doubt smartly ticks the playlist-friendly box. And while the manner in which the playlist box has been ticked has managed to sell no-one’s soul along the way, after such a distinctive and persuasive Dvořák Cello Concerto, I’m hoping that Soltani’s next concerto offering can be a meaty double bill. – Charlotte Gardner
1. Kian Soltani – I. Allegro
2. Kian Soltani – II. Adagio ma non troppo
3. Kian Soltani – III. Finale. Allegro moderato
4. Kian Soltani – I. Lasst mich allein. Andante (Arr. Soltani For Solo Cello and Cello Ensemble)
5. Kian Soltani – IV. Largo. Goin’ Home (Arr. Koncz For Solo Cello and Cello Ensemble)
6. Kian Soltani – IV. Songs My Mother Taught Me (Arr. Soltani For Solo Cello and Cello Ensemble)
7. Kian Soltani – I. Allegro moderato (Arr. Soltani For Solo Cello and Cello Ensemble)
8. Kian Soltani – V. Silent Woods (Arr. Niefind & Ribke For Solo Cello and Cello Ensemble)