Elgar / Walton – Cello concertos


Sir Edward Elgar’s compositions were already out of fashion when he wrote his last work, a cello concerto, in 1919. The time of Pump and circumstance, and his British patriotic works was long gone. The First World War had torn through Europe and left physical and mental scars all over the place. As seems to be the story for many now popular pieces, it did not meet the audience’s approval at the premiere.

A premiere by the same orchestra as presented here. I wonder if they were able to use the original sheet music they were using when the composer himself led them. I also wonder if it makes a difference, but somehow it lends this recording some authority.

Walton’s cello concerto was written in 1956, as the last of his three concertos for solo string instruments. It shares a certain old fashioned style with Elgar’s. Walton wrote a quiet ending to the concerto, but Piatigorsky, the cellist who commissioned the composition, didn’t like the ending. He thought it should have a stronger, more heroic ending. With Piatigorsky on his deathbed in 1974, Walton obliged him by changing the ending. Yo-Yo Ma here chose the earlier version.

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