Having reviewed the same work some weeks ago (the Starker/Doráti version Mercury 475660-8), I happily find on my desk once again another disc of Dvořák's B minor Concerto, only this time, the interpreter is the legendary and still deeply mourned Jacqueline Du Pré, with the also late Sir Charles Groves conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
This recording was taped at the Proms on 25th July 1969 when Du Pré was practically at the height of her powers. In this interpretation, she amply displays her total command of this concerto, bringing to the fore her great attention to detail as well as her huge dynamic range and heartfelt portamento. She has the ability to ride the big moments as well as to create magical 'pianissimo' passages in all three movements thus integrating her very soul with the composer's (musically that is).
One must stress the point that this disc is of paramount artistic importance as it is considered to be one of the benchmarks in the Du Pré discography. Not only she and her company left it too late to record, but the 1967 radio recording was nothing more than a stopgap. Although this version is not a commercial one, it has been captured in a very good acoustic with an excellent supporting orchestra and a truly sympathetic conductor. In fact the success of the performance owes much to the direction of Sir Charles Groves who gives the soloist a solid framework and manages to give her the full freedom of expression.
In spite of that hot and stuffy July evening in a packed Royal Albert Hall the results are miraculous, and all credit is due to the BBC for releasing this priceless document. I do not want to detract anything from the charming Ibert Concerto, but after such an earth shattering performance, this work is somewhat of an anticlimax, although one can easily identify the superb way that Ibert composed for wind instruments. Du Pré receives good backing from Michael Klein and his orchestra with a dashing and pleasantly fresh performance capturing the happy vein of the music with youthful zest. Still, it is the Dvořák concerto that carries all before it.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech