Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Kate Dillingham. Dvorak, Cello Concerto and Other Works, Brno Philharmonic, Anthony Armore

Anton Dvorak was in my youth one of the first of the composers I found myself listening to. My inaugural listens were of "From the New World," then a little later the Cello Concerto in a budget release I found, a live recording with no less than Rostropovich in the solo role. I lived happily with that version for very many years, and then because of a life disruption my vinyl had partly to go and now it is gone. I find often enough that if you have become used to a particular version over a long period of time all versions heard subsequently refer back to that version.

And so that is not always so bad a thing. I recently had a chance to hear and review another version and I am glad I said "yes" to the opportunity. It is a new release of cellist Kate Dillingham doing Dvorak's Cello Concerto and Other Works (Affetto 1806).

The Dvorak I most love is a kind of a folk music classicist. That of course is obvious in his New World but there is it seems to me often enough a kind of homespun Bohemian folk naivety in his melodies. The singing quality of the melodic content of the Cello Concerto is to me a good example of how Dvorak shapes melodic subject matter in his own way. consistent with the rootedness in the music of the land that surrounded him.

Ms. Dillingham chooses for the "other works" on this program two pieces for cello and orchestra that bring out that singing melodic trait in the composer. The "Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra" Op. 68/5 and his "Rondo in G minor" Op 94 fit very much in this happy place.

And so too the way Kate Dillingham, the Brno Philharmonic and conductor Anthony Armore approach the Concerto is very much in a kind of homespun way. Tempos are relaxed, there is no hurry and no one seems bent on creating a spectacular impression of great Promethean superhumanity (as of course a Rostropovich was after in thrilling ways) so much it is as if they are walking leisurely down a rustic path in the Bohemian forest, in no hurry to get to a destination, lingering now here, now there and savoring every bar of music, as it were.

This is a Dvorak that is not so much after-Beethoven (though everyone was at that point in some ways) as a with-himself. The concerto and the rustic preamble pieces hang together in ways that clearly come out of a deep understanding and love for the music itself. Ms. Dillingham in many ways makes her cello sing beautifully more than exclaim dramatically. And that seems after a few listens how I would like to hear the concerto right now. So kudos! Bravo for this Brown Study of a reading.

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