Wilhelm Fitzenhagen – Cello Concertos – Alban Gerhardt, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Stefan Blunier (2015) [FLAC 24bit/48kHz]

Wilhelm Fitzenhagen – Cello Concertos – Alban Gerhardt, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Stefan Blunier (2015) 
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/48 kHz | Time – 01:14:58 minutes | 727 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Source: hyperion-records | @ Hyperion Records
Recorded: August 2013, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany

The music of Wilhelm Fitzenhagen bursts into the Hyperion catalogue with two triumphant cello concertos, a couple of other original works, and his (in)famous version of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations. Ace cellist Alban Gerhardt presides.

Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (1848-1890), remembered for his bold, not to say high-handed revision of Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme (it extended to the cellist pasting some of his changes over the original manuscript) was acknowledged as one of the finest cellists of his generation. These first two of his three cello concertos date from around 1873. Vieuxtemps, whose own cello concertos were written three years later, must surely have known them for they share, as an early commentator observed, ‘the use of poetical musical language and thematic concision, and ample use of a declamatory instrumental style’. Perhaps Elgar knew them as well; there is a passage from the finale of the B minor Concerto (No 1) lifted directly into the coda of his concerto.
Fitzenhagen’s Op 2, three movements in one, opens with a brief attention-grabbing tutti before the soloist is let off the leash. The gorgeous second subject is followed by an extraordinary cadenza with some of the highest (and perfectly executed) harmonics I’ve ever heard from the cello. The Concerto fantastique in A minor is no less appealing. Those with a sweet tooth and taste for dashing bravura need not hesitate. Perhaps best of all is the substantial (17’05”) Ballade from 1875, ‘a kind of dramatic monologue’ (Nigel Simeone in his excellent booklet), ‘with some particularly deft woodwind writing’. There is, too, a glorious central theme which you won’t be able to get out of your head for days. The successful resurrection of unknown works like these largely stands or falls on melodic potency and the advocacy of a great soloist.
Alban Gerhardt, whose disc of Vieuxtemps Cello Concertos (Vol 6 in Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Series—3/15) would have been one of my top picks for this year’s Gramophone Awards, is such a one. Vital exuberance—the sort one usually associates only with a live recording—is matched by playing of great lyrical grace. Once you have these in place and an orchestral partnership of utter conviction, it is hard to see how Fitzenhagen’s concertos can have been ignored for so long.
The familiar and oft-recorded Tchaikovsky work (still invariably heard in Fitzenhagen’s version rather than the composer’s original) is a triumph. Stefan Blunier’s conducting is a strong contributory factor to this, as are the Berlin orchestra and the airy (but not spacious) acoustic of the city’s Jesus-Christus-Kirche. The recording team bring a warmer bloom to the sound picture than is usual on a Hyperion recording. In short, Vol 7 is enthusiastically recommended. –Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone

Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (1848-1890)
Cello Concerto No 1 in B minor Op 2
1 Allegro moderato –[7’54]
2 Andante –[3’22]
3 Allegro (quasi allegretto)[5’24]

Cello Concerto No 2 in A minor ‘Fantastique’ Op 4
4 Maestoso[6’57]
5 Andante –[4’14]
6 Allegro moderato[8’13]

Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), arr. Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (1848-1890)
Variations on a Rococo theme Op 33
7 Introduction: Moderato quasi andante[0’50]
8 Thema: Moderato semplice[1’29]
9 Variation 1: Tempo della thema –[0’50]
10 Variation 2: Tempo della thema[1’18]
11 Variation 3: Andante sostenuto[3’30]
12 Variation 4: Andante grazioso –[1’49]
13 Variation 5: Allegro moderato[3’20]
14 Variation 6: Andante[2’29]
15 Variation 7 and Coda: Allegro vivo[2’15]

Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (1848-1890)
16 Ballade ‘Concertstück’ Op 10[17’05]
17 Resignation ‘Ein geistliches Lied ohne Worte’ Op 8[3’59]

Alban Gerhardt, cello
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Stefan Blunier, conductor