Accompanied by the Amsterdam-based Concertgebouw Kamerorkest (Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra), the award-winning German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt (b. 1982) performs Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129. Recorded at the Sunday Morning Concert on May 29, 2016, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
It was rather surprising that the arch-Romantic Robert Schumann should have decided, in 1850, to essay his Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129. Schumann had started learning the cello himself in the 1830s and he had written a number of instrumental duos in which the cello is an alternative to the horn or oboe or viola; but after the success of his first work specifically for cello and piano, the Fünf Stücke im Volkston of 1849, he may have felt encouraged to try the larger medium of cello and orchestra. As originally drafted (by October 1850 – it was Schumann's first large-scale composition after he took up his duties as Municipal Music Director in Düsseldorf that autumn) the work was entitled Konzertstück, presumably because of its comparatively modest scale and the way the three movements are run together into a fantasia-like continuum, with a network of subtle thematic cross-references.
Schumann may have intended the work for Christian Reimers, the principal cellist of the Düsseldorf Orchestra, but though he rehearsed the work with Reimers in March 1851 no public performance ensued, and an informal run-through with another cellist in 1852 had no more definite outcome. On the other hand these sessions gave Schumann grounds for plentiful revision, especially in balancing the orchestra's contribution against the solo part, all of which was incorporated in the score published in 1854. By that time Schumann's reason had given way and he was confined in the sanatorium at Endenich where he died two years later. Meanwhile his Cello Concerto remained unperformed. It only received its public premiere in Leipzig in June 1860 at the hands of the distinguished cellist Ludwig Ebert, and it did not secure its place in the repertoire until the early twentieth century, thanks largely to the championship of Pablo Casals.
The published title – "Concerto for cello with orchestral accompaniment" – reflects the fact that Schumann keeps the cello centre-stage, and the orchestra often in the background, so that the soloist is able to project his lyrically expressive part without having to force his tone. In fact Schumann's orchestration is notably discreet, especially in his sparing use of trumpets and drums. Three introductory wind chords (themselves delineating an important motif) are all the preparation necessary for the soloist's superb first-subject melody, an archetypal flight of romantic fancy, at once ardent and melancholic. A more vigorous orchestral transition leads to the musing second subject in C major, which contains within itself another three-note motif that soon gains independent existence and, along with a further figure in terse triplet rhythm, plays a considerable role in the development. In the course of this the first subject is heard on the horn, in keys (such as F sharp minor) distant enough to have been hazardous had Schumann not known he could rely on the comparatively recently introduced valve horn.
The recapitulation is regular but flows seamlessly into the F major slow movement, a lyrical song without words in Schumann's most dreamily expressive vein. The gentlest pizzicato accompaniment backs the solo cello, which in the middle section embellishes the melody in plangent double-stopped thirds. The orchestra then alludes to the work's opening subject, and the cello breaks into an agitated recitative leading to the determined finale. This seeks to invest its resolute, vaguely march-like opening figure with a propulsive determination that Schumann's solo-writing, always prone to introspection, never quite allows. Reminiscences of the first movement continue to infiltrate the discourse, and the movement culminates in a cadenza with discreet orchestral accompaniment (itself an innovation) which favours the cello's lower strings, before coming to a brusque conclusion.
It was only three years after Schumann composed his Concerto that the twenty-year-old Johannes Brahms burst into the Schumann household at Düsseldorf, and it is really Brahms – who never wrote a cello concerto – who provides the point of contact for the four composers on this programme. It was in Düsseldorf that Brahms met Dietrich, and they became lifelong friends: almost immediately Schumann, Dietrich and Brahms collaborated in composing a violin sonata for the violinist Joseph Joachim. Also, from the 1850s Brahms was on friendly terms with Volkmann, whose music – including his Cello Concerto – he admired. And Gernsheim, of a slightly younger generation, also became a friend of Brahms, a staunch advocate of his works and an ardent "Brahmsian" in his own musical idiom.
Source: Calum MacDonald, 2007 (hyperion-records.co.uk)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
♪ Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 (Version for cello and string orchestra) (1850)
i. Nicht zu schnell
iii. Sehr lebhaft
Nicolas Altstaedt, cello
Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Nicolas Altstaedt
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, May 29, 2016
Renowned worldwide for his musical integrity and effortless virtuosity German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt (b. 1982) is one of the most sought after and versatile artists today. As a soloist, conductor and artistic director of he enthralls audiences with repertoire spanning from the baroque to the contemporary.
At the beginning at the 2017-2018 season he performed the highly acclaimed Finnish Premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's new cello concerto under the baton of the composer at the Helsinki Festival. He will be Artist in Spotlight at the Concertgebouw in 2017-2018 and Artist in Residence 2018-2019 at the NDR Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, where is going to perform with Krzysztof Urbanski, Hannu Lintu and Christoph Eschenbach. Later on he will be touring major european venues with the SWR Orchestra with Teodor Currentzis, the BBCSO, La Chambre Philharmonique with Emanuel Krivine and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. Further engagements include debuts performances with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Suntory Hall, Finnish Radio Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin with Juraj Valcuha, the Scottish Chamber as Soloist and conductor, Orchestre National de Belgique, Hongkong Sinfonietta and Les Violons du Roy as well as returning to the Deutsche Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin with Robin Ticciati.
Awarded the Credit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2010, he gave a highly acclaimed performance of the Schumann concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel at the Lucerne Festival. Since then he has performed worldwide with orchestras such as the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne- and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras working with conductors like Sir Roger Norrington, Andrew Manze, Lahav Shani, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Neville Marriner, Vladimir Fedosseev, Leif Segerstam, Dmitri Slobodeniouk, Alexander Shelley, Fabien Gabel, Joshua Weilerstein, Gustavo Gimeno, Giovanni Antonini and Andrea Marcon amongst many others.
In recital, Nicolas performs solo and with partners Fazil Say and Alexander Lonquich. He will tour both Europe and the US and will visit Istanbul, London Wigmore Hall, Bozar, Tonhalle Zurich, Koerner Hall Toronto, Theatre des Champs-Elysées, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and New York Carnegie Hall amongst others.
In Autumn 2017 Nicolas toured Australia extensively as part of a Musica Viva Recital tour with Aleksandar Madzar.
As a chamber musician, Nicolas regularly plays with Janine Jansen, Vilde Frang, Andreas Ottensamer, Pekka Kuusisto, Antoine Tamestit, Lawrence Power, Jonathan Cohen and the Quatuor Ébène performing at Salzburg Mozart and Summer Festival, Verbier, Utrecht, BBC Proms, Lucerne, Gstaad, Musikfest Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Rheingau and Stavanger.
In 2012 Nicolas has been chosen by Gidon Kremer to become his successor as the new artistic director of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival and in 2014, Adam Fischer asked him to follow in his footsteps as Artistic Director of the Haydn Philharmonie, with whom he regularly performs at the Vienna Konzerthaus, Esterházy Festival and will tour both China and Japan in the next season.
Nicolas premieres new music and performs with composers like Thomas Ades, Jörg Widmann, Thomas Larcher, Matthias Pintscher, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and Fazil Say. He has commissioned the pianist/composer Hauschka as part of this season as Artistic Director of "Viva Cello" Festival in Liestal in 2016 inspired by a film script by Federico Fellini as well composers Sebastian Fagerlund, Thomas Larcher, Bryce Dessner and Helena Winkelman for new cello concertos.
Nicolas' recent recording of CPE Bach Concertos on Hyperion with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen received the BBC Music Magazine Concerto Award 2017. This year, he released a Recital CD with Fazil Say on Warner. Previous recordings of cello concerti by Haydn, Schumann, Ligeti, Shostakovich and Weinberg have been acclaimed worldwide.
Nicolas Altstaedt was a BBC New Generation Artist 2010-2012 and a recipient of the "Borletti Buitoni Trust Fellowship" in 2009. He plays a Giulio Cesare Gigli cello, Rome around 1760.
Founded in 1987, the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra (CCO) is made up of members from the world famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Each season, the CCO is invited to perform in all the leading concert venues in the Netherlands, such as the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht and De Doelen in Rotterdam. The CCO also gives regular performances outside the Netherlands. In 2016 they garnered wide critical acclaim for their tour of Germany with violinist Liza Ferschtman. Upcoming travels include tours to South-America and Spain.
Joseph Haydn: Cello Concerto No.1 in C major – Nicolas Altstaedt, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen (HD 1080p)
Johannes Brahms: Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor – Vilde Frang, Nicolas Altstaedt, Chaarts Chamber Artists (4K Ultra High Definition)
Camille Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor – Nicolas Altstaedt, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Matthias Foremny (HD 1080p)
Ernest Bloch: Schelomo, Rhapsodie Hébraïque for Violoncello and Orchestra – Nicolas Altstaedt, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, Lahav Shani (HD 1080p)