Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta catapulted into public consciousness when she won the Crédit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2004 and subsequently debuted with the Vienna Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev. She was 23 then, but had won her first competition at the age of ten, and now enjoys a hectic international career as one of the world’s most famous and highly-regarded cellists.

Her wide-ranging repertoire includes three albums of works by Vivaldi and his contemporaries, recorded with Capella Gabetta, the ensemble she founded with her brother Andrés. In addition to core 19th-century repertoire, she is also committed to contemporary compositions, and has recorded an album of works by Latvian composer Pe¯teris Vasks which included his Second Cello Concerto, written especially for Gabetta. 

This latest album features two 20th-century masterworks – the first, arguably the most famous cello concerto in the repertoire; the second, virtually unknown by comparison. Elgar’s concerto was written in 1919, with the dark pall of WWI hanging heavily upon its composer, who wrote, next to its entry in his catalogue of works, “Finis. R.I.P.”. Its 1919 premiere was a disaster, and it languished in popularity until recorded by Jacqueline du Pré in 1965 (incredibly, she was only 20) and her technically brilliant, impassioned and wildly popular version remains the standard against which all others are measured. 

This is Gabetta’s second recording of Elgar’s elegiac concerto, live from the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden in 2014, and the acoustics are rich, warm and magnificent. Gabetta’s masterful reading is characterised by her trademark ‘singing’ tone; intense lyricism with just the right balance of languid restraint. Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic soar sympathetically without over-emoting, all of which contributes to a recording in which Gabetta utterly inhabits the material. 

Bohuslav Martinu˚’s First Cello Concerto is an astute choice of companion piece, a work with an extremely complicated genesis that has origins roughly contemporary with Elgar’s concerto. It was commenced in 1930, reworked in 1939, extensively revised yet again to arrive at this version from 1955 (more detail is available in the concise but informative liner notes accompanying this CD). 

It’s a fabulously interesting work, with a stunning lyrical second movement that explodes in bursts of passionate intensity and is an excellent complement for the Elgar. Hopefully Gabetta’s recording will provide impetus for others, as there are only a handful currently in print. But for now, these new recordings of two significant cello concerti are not to be missed.

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