Recording of the Week Natalie Clein and the Elgar Cello Concerto
I cannot think of a single piece of music associated more with one artist than Elgar's Cello Concerto is with Jacqueline du Pré. Many other cellists have recorded the work since - some of which are arguably as good as, if not better than, the legendary 1965 du Pré recording (I'm thinking particularly of Julian Lloyd Webber and Truls Mørk) - but none will ever sell anywhere near the two-million copies du Pré has clocked up, or attract the worldwide fame that she did by putting this work on the map.
The thirty-year-old former BBC Young Musician of the Year Natalie Clein releases her recording of the Elgar Concerto today. Being the first English female cellist to record the work since du Pré, comparisons are I suppose inevitable, but their recordings are quite different and I think Clein is probably closer to what Elgar actually intended.
The du Pré recording became legendary because of the way she wore her heart on her sleeve and threw herself entirely into the music. This appeals very directly to the listener because you hear her exuberance and impulsiveness and this tears very directly at your own heart. Listen more critically however and she is often too loud to properly balance the orchestra and her tone has a certain hard edge to it which is not at all called for in the score.
Clein on the other hand concentrates on the beauty of every single note. Nothing escapes her attention and a wonderful singing legato carries you throughout. The result is a reflective yet simple reading full of humility and tenderness. Her tone is soft yet addictive and when you remember that Elgar wrote this work as a post-First World War elegy, it is for this reason more than anything else that I suspect this is closer to what the composer had in mind.
Released today on EMI, it represents a quite different reading of this work from the one which everyone knows and it is well worth hearing.
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