The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Herbert: Serenade for string orchestra op.12, Seven Pieces for cello and string orchestra, Three Pieces for string orchestra
Little-known string works by an influential composer–cellist
Monday, 26 March 2012
Maximilian Hornung (cello) Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim/Sebastian Tewinkel
CPO 777 576-2
Irish–American composer Victor Herbert (1859–1924) is best remembered for having written a cello concerto that inspired Dvořák to write his own B minor work. He was a fine cellist in his own right, and the string writing in his Serenade of 1889 is highly idiomatic, with a style paying homage to European models in a honeyed fusion of Tchaikovsky and Grieg. The warmly recorded Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim under Sebastian Tewinkel certainly does justice to the work, a piece that makes a useful alternative to more familiar Romantic examples of the genre. The highlight is an evocatively plaintive Liebes-Scene, but less enticing is the finale, which is rather predictable and is let down by an overtly saccharine contrasting melody.
Herbert seems to have been most successful as a miniaturist, as can be seen in the attractive Seven Pieces, played here with their original piano accompaniments arranged for string orchestra. These cameos boast some memorable soaring melodies in the school of Tchaikovsky, particularly in ‘Yesterthoughts’, which is given a fervent and elegant rendition by cellist Maximilian Hornung. He is equally impressive in the virtuosic moto-perpetuo spiccato writing in ‘Mountain Brook’. In contrast, ‘Punchinello’ is a witty piece performed with colourful precision.
A whole disc devoted to Herbert, however, palls, not least thanks to some uncomfortably sentimental moments in the Three Pieces for string orchestra, whose concluding ‘Sunset’ offers a shameless crib of the main melody in the slow movement of Elgar’s Serenade.
From the March 2012 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.