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David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2015

As a companion release to the bassoon concerto reviewed above, John Williams completed the Cello Concerto in 1994, premiered that year by Yo-Yo Ma in Boston. Very different in style and texture to the bassoon score, it comes from the same musical world as Penderecki and Lutoslawski, and though, in strict terms, it is not an atonal score, that mood is the immediate feel to the music. Unusual for a concerto, the main thrust of the score comes from the orchestral part, around which Williams has created the web of sound for the solo cello. In four movements of around thirty minutes, the opening Theme and cadenza has the feel of a person lost in their own thoughts; the third is often violent in content with heavy percussion playing a major role at its central climax, while the finale is replete with sadness, those sobbing sounds we find in Shostakovich ending the work in desolation. For the soloist it presents many and frequent challenges, but is not a showpiece in the accepted sense, though it requires a sensitive response to shade the subtle changes of colour that are required. That part is taken by Robert DeMaine, the former principal cello of the Detroit Symphony, but now holding that position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, his with a list of mentors reading like a catalogue of the greatest cellists in the second half of the 20th century. One of America’s most sought after soloists, he proves ideal for this work, melting refinement into the many attributes required, his tonal quality perfect for those passages when the music becomes introverted. Leonard Slatkin conducts in very good sound, with the cellist set back into the orchestra. Available only as a digital download. © 2015 David's Review Corner

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