"The Walton orphan has a new champion. Never as catchy as his violin concerto, the cello piece is delivered with pensive beauty by a daring Dutchman, Peter Wispelwey, and the excellent Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Jeffrey Tate. The companion works - by Bloch, Ligeti and Britten – provide an altogether novel context, one that will oblige you to rethink Walton’s known qualities." ****
Evening Standard - 11 March 2009
"Pieter Wispelwey’s recital is a thing of wild beauty.Wispelwey’s sound is thrilling...the Sydney Symphony matches him gleam for gleam."
The Independent on Sunday - 16 March 2009
"A disc of superb perfromances of post-1945 cello music by Pieter Wispelwey. I do not know of a finer performance of the Walton Concerto..." ****
The Sunday Telegraph - 16 March 2009
**** Disc of the Week ****
Daily Telegraph - 15 March 2009
Gramophone June 09
"The inspired Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey here couples the Walton Cello Concerto with a sequence of works for unaccompanied cello. As one would expect, his playing is flawless, though in the Walton the fast passages like the central Scherzo are more successful in their brilliance than the slow ruminative ones, which tend to meander a little without focusing quite as they should. The Scherzo is tautly held together with the soloist luxuriating in the brief expansive moments, while the final Passacaglia, much the longest movement, is also a success, no mean feat when the broad reflectiveness predominates, set in contrast only with two brief fast variations.
Nevertheless it is a fine reading which adds to an impressive list of versions, and the coupling is unique. There the problem may be that such a sequence of solo cello music tends to lack contrast, sharply distinctive as each of the composers are. The Bloch Suite in four movements finds Wispelwey, as in the Walton, most successful in the fast, brilliant movements, closing with a jolly dance in triple time.
The movements of the Ligeti are more distinctive, while the Walton Passacaglia is the work he wrote for Rostropovich, hoping (in vain) that it would persuade him to play the concerto. The Britten is welcome too, but still seems a little lost separated from the Suite written for Rostropovich."
Gramophone - June 2009
"The main pieces on this disc are linked by date rather than genre, all being products of the 1950s. Pieter Wispelwey writes evocatively in the booklet of recording of recording the Walton Concerto live in the Sydney Opera House - ’no patching sessions, every note played with some 2000 people present’. It’s a ravishing performance. Sydney, he writes seemed like a metropolitan version of Walton’s Ischia, and the searing tone of the 1760 guadagnini he plays brilliantly conveys the vivid colours and shimmering heat.
The cello’s first-movement entry is lyrical and flowing, with singing double-stopping passages. The instrument’s gutty lower strings bite expressively in the spiky scherzo and the two solo cadenzas of the theme-and-variations finale enter a new and private sound sound world more akin to the bloch that follows, so that the full orchestral crash comes as a particularly brutal shock. Rather pleasingly, the last three notes of the solo line, relaxing down on to a long low C, are taken up in the reverse at the beginning of Bloch’s Bach-inspired Suite, played on the 1698 ’Magg’ Stradivari on which Wispelwey performs the remainder of the disc. More muted in its lower registers, the instrument’s sound nevertheless shines brightly in the high tessitura passages, and the Canzona is poignantly haunting, as Wispelwey plays to the slight reverberence in the recording acoustic, letting the sound of each phrase die away.
Ligeti’s solo sonata of 1948/53 is a clear forerunner of Britten’s more celebrated unaccompanied works, with the distinctive timbre of its low double-stops, manic presto and glissando pizzicato chords making it all addictive listening."
The Strad - July 2009
"Dutch cellist Wispelwey, now in middle age, is at a point in his career where he’s setting interpretive standards in addition to technical ones, at least in these strong-minded discs, which juxtapose 20th-century concertos against little-known unaccompanied cello works by major composers. Those thrilled by the Prokofiev Sinfonia when performed by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra a few months back will be relieved to find this excellent new performance, which is truly able to encompass the sprawling piece. No Prokofiev gesture is too large or oblique for Wispelwey to find any number of telling details. In the Walton, Wispelwey is crisp almost to the point of brusqueness - welcome in a concerto whose suaveness can hide its own importance.
The unaccompanied cello works that fill out both discs are a mixed lot but mostly worth hearing. On the Prokofiev disc, Crumb’s Sonata for Cello Solo is a student work that sounds nothing like later pieces, though an inquiring mind is definitely evident. Tcherepnin’s Asian-tinged Suite for Solo Cello isn’t so lucky. The Walton disc filler is more appetizing: Though Ligeti’s excellent Sonata for Solo Cello is widely recorded, Bloch’s rugged, little-known Suite No. 1 is not, and though Walton’s 10 Passacaglia for Solo Cello shows the composer in decline, it’s a good counterpoint to the more youthful concerto. ****
-David Patrick Stearns
Philadelphia Enquirer - 9 August 2009
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