DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto; TCHAIKOVSKY Rococo Variations

Though written barely 20 years apart, Dvorák's Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations draw their inspiration from two entirely different epochs. Dvorák's lush, Romantic concerto has hints of Czech motherland and even adaptations of his own previous works. The accompaniment is densely scored with tutti sections that could easily be right out of one of his symphonies. Rococo, on the other hand, harkens back to one of Tchaikovsky's bygone eras and employs only minimal orchestral forces.

Even with their clear contrasts, both works have become cornerstones of the cello's repertoire. Performing on this Virgin Classics reissue of a 1993 disc is Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under Mariss Jansons. Mørk's technical prowess on his instrument is undeniable; the high technical demands in both works are tossed off with ease and elegance. Intonation is nearly flawless, articulation is crisp and clear, shifts are impeccably controlled, and passage work is nimble. Mørk's sound is not the biggest in the cello community, particularly on the lower strings; this works better in the more lightly scored Tchaikovsky than in the assertive, forceful Dvorák.

Connection between Mørk and the orchestra, particularly in the Dvorák, is fleeting at best. Mørk is rather heavy-handed with his application of rubato, often leaving the orchestra in the dust as he accelerates through passages in the third movement. Rococo gets less rubato and is therefore played with a greater connection between soloist and orchestra. For listeners interested in a technically polished performance, this one certainly fits the bill. There are others available, however, that have a more unified offering and there are cellists with a bit meatier sound.

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