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Everything old is new again: Daniel Müller-Schott brilliantly re-imagines the cello

01 February 2018

Daniel Müller-Schott, Orfeo

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Everything old is new again: Daniel Müller-Schott brilliantly re-imagines the cello

Despite a lineage stretching back to the first half of the 16th century, the cello has never enjoyed the generous breadth and volume of repertoire its string sibling, the violin, can lay claim to. Even the piano has access to a far greater range of music despite its relative youth.

The comparatively slender repertoire available to the cello is a dilemma – and a challenge – every cellist must face. It’s one that Daniel Müller-Schott – hailed by The New York Times as “a fearless player with technique to burn” – has faced head-on since his headline-grabbing victory in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1992.

His career has been marked by the unearthing of forgotten works for the cello and his transcribing of existing pieces originally composed for other instruments. His latest release, #CelloReimagined, focuses on music by three leading figures of the classical era – Mozart, Haydn and CPE Bach – while taking a dexterous glance back to the progenitor of the Bach dynasty, Johann Sebastian. 

Müller-Schott describes the disc as “an artistic game of interrelationships and transference” and there’s much to enjoy in an intelligently chosen programme that makes an eloquent case for the cello’s expressive and flexible register, moving lithely between rapturous tenor and introspective baritone.

From its bright, crisp opening, via a moving, heart-sore Largo to its effervescent, forward-looking finale, CPE Bach’s innovative and sophisticated Third Cello Concerto (the only work here originally intended for the instrument, although Bach also produced versions for flute and harpsichord) provides a superbly realised introduction.  

All the other pieces are transcriptions by Müller-Schott himself, Haydn’s crystalline Fourth Violin Concerto losing none of its natural lyricism in its lowering of voice while gaining much else besides. The cello’s burnished timbre is especially persuasive in the becoming intimacy of its middle-movement aria, pleasingly agile in the exuberant finale.

Mozart’s Oboe Concerto is made to seem equally conducive to the cello’s voice, Müller-Schott finding in it an engaging playfulness that many would deny the instrument. Two exquisite Adagios – Mozart’s in E (K261) and from JS Bach’s Second Violin Concerto (BWV 1042) – gain considerably in terms of graceful poise and aching poignancy in their transposition to the darker hues of the cello.

Müller-Schott’s venerable 1727 Matteo Goffriller cello is an expressive instrument, its resonant richness perfectly framed by a superb recording and the ever-dexterous period-instrument accompaniment of Werner Ehrhardt’s L’arte del mondo.  

Rating:
Performance: four stars
Sound: five stars

Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), L’arte del mondo / Werner Ehrhardt
Orfeo C 920 171 A (Released: November 17, 2017.)

Michael Quinn 

Michael Quinn is a former deputy editor of Gramophone and Classic FM magazines and associate editor of The Classical Review. Widely published in print and online in the UK, USA, Australia and his native Ireland, he is an Artistic Assessor of Music with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and programming consultant to the region’s newest arts centre, Portico, Portaferry.

Cello Reimagined

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