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Edward Elgar Elgar Cello Concerto in E Minor Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

...a truly different and much smoother interpretation...

Charlotte Gardner 2007

How does a young cellist find the courage to record not only one of the most famous works for their instrument, but one completely associated with Jacqueline du Pré? It’s like asking someone to cover "Bohemian Rhapsody". Never mind whether du Pré’s interpretation is totally true to what Elgar intended (probably not, listening to the recording of Beatrice Harrison, his original cellist), it is still the one played across radio stations and on CD players everywhere as the definitive version. However, Natalie Clein’s performance is more than worthy of praise.

So, the recording is good, but does it give us a sufficiently different take on the work to warrant us dipping into our pockets for it? In a word, yes. There have been other marvellous post-du Pré renditions of Elgar’s concerto, notably Julian Lloyd Webber’s, but Clein’s playing has an especially warm tone and smooth phrasing; her cello treats each note with the same love, and these qualities make hers a particularly unique interpretation. Elgar’s sense of loss is conveyed powerfully under her fingers, but with a gentleness that du Pré’s tempestuous-to-the-point-of-rough delivery never gave.

The concerto is followed by a number of Elgar’s most popular short works, arranged for cello and orchestra – In Moonlight, Sospiri, Chanson de Matin, Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra, Salut d’Amour, and La Capricieuse. To me, with the exception of Sospiri, they sound rather trivial and incongruous after the emotional depths plumbed by the concerto. Clein plays all of them with her characteristic sensitivity, but pieces such as Chanson de Matin will never be more than charming Victorian salon music; they’re not going to set the world on fire, and after the Elgar I was in the mood for something more meaty. However I can see the logic behind their inclusion, it being Elgar’s anniversary year, and they are very pretty.

Natalie Clein has achieved an almost impossible task; she has given us a unique interpretation which is most definitely her own. If you’d like a truly different and much smoother interpretation of Elgar’s great work, then this is for you.

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