The cello has such a beautiful, human-like voice and such a wide range of timbres that it sometimes seems as if the music speaks directly to us through its body.
Unfortunately, there are very few really great works for this instrument. The reason for this is its history and the fact that it has always stood in the shadow of the violin.
In classical romantic literature, for example, there are few works that are still played today, such as the concertos by J. Haydn or the cello concerto by Robert Schumann.
And of course, the most famous of all, the Cello Concerto in B minor by A. Dvořák.
It was written in the winter of 1894/95, when Dvořák was a teacher at the National Conservatory of Music in New York. He was inspired by the premiere of Victor Herbert’s Second Cello Concerto, which he enthusiastically attended.
Accustomed to working quickly, he threw the first sketches on paper at the beginning of November 1894 and already three months later he was able to complete the music.
Johannes Brahms, who received a copy of the concerto, is said to have exclaimed after reading it: “Why didn’t I know that you could write a cello concerto like this? If I had known, I would have written one a long time ago”.
The concerto is written in three movements in the following sequence Allegro – Adagio – Allegro moderato.
The first movement begins with the famous theme, which is performed in the orchestra, and in a quiet moment the horn plays its side theme. The cello begins surprisingly late and develops its own melodic lines from the main theme, which interlock in a fruitful dialogue with the orchestra.
In the spring of 1895, Dvořáks sister-in-law Josefine, with whom he was once immortally in love, died. When she refused him her hand, he married her younger sister, but his passion never seemed to have fallen asleep. The song “Lasst mich allein” (“Leave me alone”), which forms the basis of the second, sad movement, was also dedicated to her.
The final movement is reminiscent of the folk dances and songs of Bohemia, the homeland Dvořáks. At the end the cello sings its “Leave me alone” once more, whereupon the concerto ends in a melancholy gesture.
Here a recording with the world-famous Mischa Maisky and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under Jacek Kaspszyk.