The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: No long-forgotten gems, but useful additions to the catalogue
Musicians: Klaus-Dieter Brandt (cello) L’Arpa Festante/ Riccardo Minasi
Composer: Rietz, Gross

This well-recorded and adeptly conducted CD is a historical ‘filler’, in that it provides the context for the works that were being forged by Mendelssohn and Schumann during the first half of the 19th century. What is abundantly evident is that the technical level of cello playing in Germany was exceptionally high at this time, courtesy of the pedagogy of Bernhard Romberg, among others. Both Julius Rietz (1812–77) and Johann Benjamin Gross (1809–48) were professional cellists, and their cello writing is idiomatic, falling naturally within hand positions even in the highest registers.

A plethora of scalic passages, arpeggio figures and broken octaves, double-stops and so forth grace all the works. Yet for all their virtuosity, these compositions are in no way unjustly neglected. They have glimmers of interest – for example the opening of Rietz’s Fantaisie, which is cast for solo cello much in the manner of a cadenza. Some of the orchestration reflects the influence of Mendelssohn, particularly in Rietz’s Cello Concerto, though Gross is perhaps more indebted to his friend Schumann.

Klaus-Dieter Brandt gives an extremely impressive rendition of these works, accompanied by an orchestra of period instruments. He serves the lengthy ‘study’ passages with shape and accuracy, and makes the most of the lyrical melodies in the adagios of the Rietz and the Romanze of Gross’s Concerto.

Joanne Talbot