Schumann’s Cello Concerto proves significantly more compelling than the other works featured alongside it in this release. For example, although the compositional fluency and orchestration of Albert Dietrich (1829–1908) are impressive, and his sense of structure defined, much of his material is routine. The concerto by Robert Volkmann (1815–83) fares better in this regard, with a one-movement format full of charming ideas. It is also a useful pedagogical bridge to the greater work, including many technical building blocks. Moreover it’s in print.
Alban Gerhardt once again proves himself to be a highly gifted and enterprising cellist, unearthing these items that would otherwise largely pass us by unnoticed. But not even his ardent advocacy on this well-recorded disc can redeem the concerto by Friedrich Gernsheim (1839–1916). Unquestionably in this context Schumann is the great artist. Superiority of thematic material and harmonic structure is only part of the story: sheer creative inspiration has to be factored into the equation – which is the unquantifiable ingredient. Again Gerhardt offers a very compelling account of this concerto, never indulgent but at the same time eloquent in the lyrical passages. The orchestral partnership is supportive and carefully balanced – a bonus as orchestration is perhaps not Schumann’s strongest suit. Although many of these concertos will hardly chisel out a place in the repertoire, they nevertheless form an interesting backdrop to the Schumann.