While we have the Italians to thank for first spotting the cello’s potential as a solo instrument, by the middle decades of the 18th century composers in Germany were getting in on the act too. This recording sees Musica Viva, aka The Moscow Chamber Orchestra, present four early German cello concertos, with their director Alexander Rudin doubling up as soloist.

The central interest, and perhaps the real draw of the disc, is the premiere recording of two concertos by Johann Wilhelm Hertel. Hasse’s Cello Concerto in D and CPE Bach’s A major Cello Concerto form the bookends. The concertos themselves are of the early-Classical heart-tugging variety, full of singing melodies, aching dissonances and winsome changes of mood.

A notable feature of the two Hertel concertos is that their cadenzas are in the central slow movement rather than in the final Allegro – a Berlin School trick – and Rudin’s beautifully sensitive, low-key approach to them is really delightful. In fact the performances across the whole disc are all quiet stunners. Pitched at 415Hz, the orchestra offer up an immaculate, gently assured, light-of-touch period sound that seems all the more impressive given that this is by no means even their predominant stomping ground; you’re just as likely to hear them in Handel, Glinka or contemporary repertoire. Rudin, meanwhile, is refreshing for his unshowiness, his lyrical and more virtuoso passages equally elegant, and the whole rich with subtly nuanced expression.

A similar aesthetic has been applied to the balance, Rudin placed in front of the orchestra but not dramatically so. All in all, a recording I’ll be returning to.

Author(s): Charlotte Gardner