The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Ramon Jaffé (cello) Rheinische Philharmonie State Orchestra/Daniel Raiskin
Composer: Dvorák

Given the quality of the famous B minor Concerto, who couldn’t but hope that Dvo?ák had written an earlier masterpiece for cello and orchestra? The 1865 A major Concerto, however, is clearly an apprentice work, and only survived in a version for cello and piano until orchestrated by Jarmil Burghauser in 1975. Without doubt there are glimmers of an emerging talent, with some obvious inspiration from Schumann and Wagner. There are also many passages where the figuration resembles that of the B minor work, suggesting that Dvo?ák already recognised the cello’s potential as a powerful solo instrument. But the ideas are not generally captivating, bar a few poignant moments in the Andante and some catchy folkish elements in the finale’s furiant rhythms.   

As an advocate of the work, Ramon Jaffé is never less than fervent, giving the melodies nuance and shape, and mastering the considerable technical demands with ease. With both Pergamenschikow and Geringas among his teachers, his commanding virtuosity comes as no surprise, but he adds to this a vivid and idiomatic sense of style. Taken from a radio broadcast with the Koblenz-based orchestra, the recording seems a little compressed, which possibly reduces the dynamic range as well. The cameo works offer a fruitful coupling to this concerto, the Waldesruhe expressively portrayed and the Rondo encompassing both its lyricism and fiery virtuosity.

Joanne Talbot