One approach to enlivening Dvořák's besotted concerto is to throw a glass of cold water into its moony face. Once the grimace of surprise subsides, new contours emerge. Temptations that made the concerto a dull voluptuary – those lyrical swamps that ensnare the sensualist conductor – are sidestepped by quicker tempi. It's the "Skin Bracer" effect.
That's the sort fine-tuned astringency that Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic bring to the concerto, though they are carried somewhat out of bounds by Mork's overstimulated solo work. His passion has a nervous edge. He plays with a rapid, narrow vibrato on a cello (1723 Montagna) that already sounds more brilliant than expected. Entries are punctuated by snorting inhalations, which become distracting when heard at appreciable volumes. I thought he was at his best in the final Allegro moderato, where his rhythmic dash sounds right in tune with the conductor.
Next to Dvořák, Tchaikovsky's classically proportioned variations sound lightweight indeed. They are beautifully played here; the technical challenges flit by on a Mozartean breeze. Depending on your view of musical programs, the variations are either a good antidote to Czech moodiness or mere diversion.
Copyright © 1998, Robert J. Sullivan