Monthly Record Guide: Classical (3)

Classical Elgar, Sir Edward, and Walton, Sir William: Cello Concertos. Ralph Kirshbaum, cello. Scottish National Orchestra, Sir Alexander Gibson, conductor. (Chandos Digital ABRD 1007) - I missed this British release (available at most record stores that deal in imports) when it first came out: I had been unhappy that no new recording of the Walton Cello Concerto had emerged around the time of the late composer's 80th birthday celebrations, not realizing that, in fact, one had been made - and very much liked by the composer. Ironically, it is the Elgar that takes top honors here. Mr. Kirshbaum fully understands the melancholia that sparked this concerto, and he performs with lovely tone and unusual sensitivity. Mr. Gibson is a noble partner in this enterprise. In the Walton, Kirshbaum again plays handsomely, with great nuance and a rich understanding of the autumnal nature of the piece. Unfortunately, Gibson's conducting verges on lackadaisical, undercutting the effectiveness of the performance and giving the music a meandering feeling. But the sound on the record is open, clean, and bright, allowing the rich colors of both scores to come through impressively.

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