The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: Spellbinding Elgar and more from a master of the cello
Musicians: Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello) BBC Symphony Orchestra/Ji?í B?lohlávek
Composer: Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák

Jean-Guihen Queyras is a remarkable artist who breathes new life into well-worn repertoire. Even the salon pieces by Dvorák in this release are so exquisitely played as to galvanise any fellow performer into revisiting them. A rich and warm recording with a finely judged balance between orchestra and soloist adds to the excellence, but more important is the high level of carefully rehearsed detail in the orchestral parts under Ji?í B?lohlávek’s direction.

A number of elements combine to make Queyras’s playing inspirational on its own. A fluid and commanding bowing technique, awesomely demonstrated in the Rococo Variations, is certainly part of the equation, as is his left hand – a truly obedient servant to his bidding. Beyond this, though, he invests the cello’s voice with human characteristics – it whispers, sobs, screams, laughs and sings. And it is this level of subtlety that he brings to the Elgar Concerto. Although taken at a slow tempo, the first movement eschews indulgence yet has captivating eloquence. In his leaps he allows the music to breathe so that melody is characterised as naturally as speech. The Allegro molto second movement has great clarity and brilliance, but it is the poetry of the Adagio that proves the most spellbinding of all.

Clip: Elgar Cello Concerto. I: Adagio

Joanne Talbot