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Schumann | Dvořák: Concerti For Cello & Orchestra

CARMINE MIRANDA, cello. MORAVIAN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, PETR VRONSKY, conductor: Schumann, Dvorak concerti for cello and orchestra. Navona Records

Carmine Miranda’s new CD, Carmine Miranda Schumann Dvorak concerti for cello and orchestra is neatly packaged and accompanied by extensive musical commentary * by the cellist himself. The recording is clean and clear, produced by a takes-a-village team led by Navona Records’ Bob Lord, with Jeff Le Roy as its chief sound engineer.

Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, opus 129 is a short (under 22 minutes) three-movement composition closer in spirit and form to a continuous-movement Konzertstück than to the traditional allegro/andante/allegro tri-partite compositions with a concerto structure.

This is a mid-career work, grave with import, impassioned, modestly melodic and imbued with the coded symbols of which its composer was so fond, in this case a repetitive statement of the composer’s wife’s initials: C-S-W (Clara Schumann Wieck.)

Cellist Carmine Miranda takes the work head-on, allowing his playing to serve the composer with no added grandstanding or self-serving pyrotechnics. Miranda brings rigorous musicianship and patrician musicality to the service of the composer, along with formidable technique. Rather than merely accompanying, the Moravian orchestra engages in a musical face-to-face dialogue with the cellist, assuredly led by Petr Vronský. The results are impressive.

Antonín Dvořák’s Concerto for cello and orchestra in B minor, opus 104, gives us the Czech composer at his most inspired, most nationalistic. A contrast to Schumann’s A minor, this is a late Romantic, full-length work: a salute to the Moravian roots of its composer written in a nostalgic mood by Dvořák during the last year of his tenure as head of the National Conservatory in New York in 1895.

It is a technically-daunting work that’s taken in stride by cellist Carmine Miranda, making the merely technical fade into the background and the purely musical come to the fore, with felicitous results. The Moravians play this music as their very own: elegantly, passionately, precisely, and Miranda converses with them comfortably when ease is called for, intensely when fierceness is in order.

In his liner notes, Miranda speaks of Dvořák as “a citizen of the world.” The same can be said for this chronologically young, musically mature artist who embraces the works of Middle-Europeans with the Latin passion of his Italian-Venezuelan heritage along with the assurance of someone on the brink of an international career.

* First published as “Decoding The Schumann Cello Concerto” by Carmine Miranda in The Musical Times.

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