Lalo and (Enrique) Casals Cello Concertos

I can't stress this enough: not just for cellists. This music is vibrant and profound, and will bring significant joy

Lalo and (Enrique) Casals Cello Concertos

Although we perviously carried a release announcement of this release, it is perhaps good to have a more in-depth look (and listen!).

The performance of the Lalo Cello Concerto in D-Minor celebrated his 200th birth anniversary in 2023 (his dates are 1823-92). It is a fascinating piece, full of folkloristic influences alongside those of Beethoven and Schumann. Quite the amalgam, and Vogler is the most persuasive advocate.

The orchestra is the Moritzburg Festival Orchestra: a festival founded in 1993 land modelled after Marlboro (founded by Casals, and a festival Vogler attended in 1988 and 1989). In 2001, Vogler became Artistic Director of the Moritzburg Festival.

The orchestra is spot-on in their partnership with Vogler under the stewardship of the Catalan conductor Josep Caballé Domenech. The first movement opens dramatically, all grey skies and Austro-Germanic angst an orchestral outguess prolonged by a determined, ruminative cello solo. But melodies twist with a sense of inevitability towards Spanish-style melody. Note the excellence of the recording, too, with just the right amount of bloom - it was taken down in Dresden's Lukaskirche, home to recordings of the Golden Era by the likes of Carlos Kleiber, Rudolf Kempe and Herbert von Karajan:

The slow movement is an intimate “Imtermezzo” marked Andantino con moo. Vogler's cello positively whispers into the listener's ear, balanced by an almost skipping Allegro presto. It is the interaction between these two that gives this not only a sense of rightness but a sense of dynamism against Innigkeit:

The finale begins expansively, Vogler's cello deeply expressive. His tone is golden, the lines near-vocal in their cantabile in the movements Introduction. When it comes o the Rondo, the Moritzburg Festival Orchestra is on cracking form:

It is true there are some fabulous historical accounts of the Lalo: Leonard Rose, for example, or Janos Starker (on Mercury: here's the first movement). Vogler's lean, intense, modern performance is the ideal complement to these. Interestingly enough, there is a recording of the Lalo with Pablo Casals as conductor: it hails from Tokyo and features Takeichiro Hirai as soloist with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra - it might be difficult to obtain, though, as it was released on EMI-Toshiba (TOCE-8859).

Photo © Marco Grob

The long-lived Enrique Casals (1892-1986) was brother to Pablo Casals - who is linked to the disc via the Lalo, which he played while forging an international career in 1899 - in Madrid, Paris, and London. Vogler was introduced to Enrique's concerto (fully, Concerto for Cello in F-Major in Romantic Serious Style) by the present conductor. Wagner and Richard Strauss were all the rage in Barcelona at the time of the work's composition, and their shadow is certainly here (Enrique was born and also died in that city). The concerto dates from 1946, and is suffused with a late-romantic lyrical glow superbly conveyed here. Although not quite Casals' Heldenleben, in which piece Strauss had the horn as his hero (himself), Lalo does opt for swashbuckling cello. This is the World Premiere recording, and it shines. The expansive, discursive first movement (14"23) is held together by that thread of lyricism. Vogler's cello sings, the Moritzburg Festival Orchestra provides the most beautiful of contributions, its violins perfectly capable of handling the high writing at climaxes. Vogler's upper register is certainly on display in the fast coda:

The marking is “Allegro doloroso” and the dolorous elementals is certainly there in the emotionally laden strings of the opening; Vogler's cello sounds phenomenal in the long lines (he plays the 1707 “ex-Castelbarco, Fau” Stradivari).

From doloroso to bright Spanish sunlight: the finale is marked “Tempo di sardana”: a sardana is a Catalan dance typically danced by people in a circle. It is associated with festivals or weekends and so has an open-air, optimistic slant. It certainly does here: bright, breezy and yet, in Enrique Casals' piece, with an added layer of sophistication. Its not all helter-skelter antics though: a beautiful Lyrica moment with woodwind-encrusted cello offers an oasis:

I can't stress this enough: not just for cellists. This music is vibrant and profound, and will bring significant joy. And it is so rare to have a disc where everything falls into place: programme, performances, and recording (shout out to the Producer, Jakob Händel: I do notice that no engineers are credited, though, although executive producers are, one of which is Vogler himself, as is the person responsible for “Product Management”).

The score of the Enrique Casals piece is available from Boileau Music here, for a very reasonable 32.75 Euros.

X photo © Marco Grob.

The disc is available on Amazon here; Spotify and iDagio below:

Lalo, Casals: Cello Concertos | Stream on IDAGIO
Listen to Lalo, Casals: Cello Concertos by Josep Caballé-Domenech, Jan Vogler, Moritzburg Festival Orchestra, Édouard Lalo, Enric Casals. Stream now on IDAGIO