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The previous two volumes in this series have proved to be most impressive, putting this series on track to be one of the finest available.
Cellist Oren Shevlin was born in 1969 in Oldham, England studying with Raphael Sommer, Boris Pergamenschikow and Frans Helmerson, at Chethams School of Music and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He completed his studies at the Guildhall School of Music, London and at the Hochschule für Musik, Cologne with the highest honours.
He won second prize at both the International Paulo Cello Competition in Helsinki in 1996 and at the Rostropovich Cello Competition in 2001. In addition to giving numerous solo performances with the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne, of which he has been principal cellist since 1998, he has performed as a soloist with orchestras including the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, the Moscow New Philharmonic Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerakademie, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris and the Orchestre National de France.
As a soloist he has collaborated with numerous conductors including Sir André Previn, Mikhail Jurowskij, Eliahu Inbal, Peter Rundel, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Christoph Eschenbach, Emilio Pomarico, Lothar Zagrosek, and Oliver Knussen. For Naxos he has recorded works by Haydn and for Claudio Records he has recorded works by Kodaly, Dutilleux and Britten. Shevlin has made several appearances at the Wigmore Hall in London.
Holliger creates a fine atmosphere in the brief few bars before the soloist enters in the first movement Nicht zu schnell of Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129. Oren Shevlin matches the orchestra’s sensitive entry bringing a lovely tone, full of feeling, rich and mellow. He provides a deep thoughtfulness together with a fine technique. Holliger nicely points up the little orchestral tuttis with Shevlin bringing a restrained emotion.
There are some exquisitely sensitive passages in the middle movement Langsam as well as some lovely harmonies and textures from Shevlin. This soloist and orchestra work so well together following every nuance with a lovely little burst of emotion before the final movement arrives.
Shevlin brings a real buoyancy to the Sehr lebhaft with soloist and orchestra never letting the music flag as it sometimes can in this movement. They even introduce a degree of quiet playfulness as soloist and orchestra respond to each other. Shevlin gives us a very fine accompanied cadenza before the music slowly develops and leads to the coda.
This is certainly amongst the finest performances of this concerto on record.
Heinz Holliger and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln have been setting down recordings of all the various versions of Schumann’s Symphonic works as part of this series. They have already recorded Schumann’s unsuccessful Symphony in D minor that, after its disastrous first performance, was revised in 1851 to become his Symphony No.4 in D minor, op.120 recorded here.
Mighty opening chords set the drama of the first movement Ziemlich langsam. Lebhaft with timpani pointing up the dark opening before it rises up. When the main theme arrives it is full of life and drama with the orchestra bringing a fine tautness and flexibility. This is very fine Schumann indeed, beautifully lithe and transparent with Holliger drawing some really flexible playing from the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln.
They rise to a terrific, uplifting climax in the coda before leading into the second movement Romanze. Ziemlich langsam where there is a lovely mellow flow and some lovely individual instrumental passages.
Holliger brings some very fine rhythmic qualities to the Scherzo. Lebhaft beautifully offset by the most lovely playing, full of fantasy with a quicksilver trio section exquisitely done. The hushed coda is full of atmosphere and suspense as Holliger slowly builds the music with some glorious sounds from the WDRSO.
The final Langsam. Lebhaft has some nicely crisp phrasing and beautifully taut playing combined with a lovely orchestral rubato. Holliger produces some fine broad sweeps as the music dances ahead with some terrific string surges before heading to the dynamic coda.
This is a very fine Schumann disc indeed, a terrific follow up to the previous volumes in this series. These artists receive an excellent recording from the Philharmonie, Köln and there are informative booklet notes. This is fast becoming the Schumann Symphonic cycle to collect.