Antonín Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor

This is one of the two most performed cello concertos in the world (the other being by Elgar) and with such a story to tell that it would make a great weepy all on its own.

Like the New World Symphony, it is another work hailing from the composer’s American period and is therefore infused with the same sense of homesick longing that pervades the symphony. Yet there is far more to the Cello Concerto than initially meets the ear. Homesickness tells only half the tale. With Dvořák in America was his wife, Anna, whom he had married only after courting and being turned down by her elder sister, Josefina. At that time, he had started but not finished an early cello concerto, an expression of his love. Now, in America, he learned that Josefina was seriously ill – and began another cello concerto. Into it, he wove Josefina’s favourite of his songs, called ‘Leave Me Alone’. It is heard most achingly in the wonderful slow movement. Intended originally for his friend Hanus (who played alongside composer Suk in the Czech string Quartet) it was eventually premiered in England by British cellist Leo Stern, whom Dvořák had befriended in Prague.

Recommended Recording

Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Herbert von Karajan (conductor). Deutsche Grammophon: 4474132.

Illustration: Mark Millington

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