Crazy Cello Shredding from Edgar Moreau

I'm not sure what possessed me to listen to young Edgar Moreau's Erato recording, Offenbach & Gulda: Cello Concertos, with Les Forces Majeures conducted by young Raphaël Merlin. Was the moon in that phase when it appears to be laughing at we earthlings? All that is certain is by the time I had heard but a minute of the first movement of cellist/composer Offenbach's concerto, it was clear that I'd be laughing through at least half of the notes that lay ahead.

Mind you, there are a lot of notes, in both concertos. If you want to hear the cellist's equivalent of guitar shredding, if only to dismiss the very notion of cello shredding as absurd, skip the Offenbach and head to the middle Cadenza movement of pianist/composer Friedrich Gulda's Concerto for cello, wind orchestra, and band. As you hear Moreau breathe heavily while he saws away in a manner that you would never expect from a Casals, Piatigorsky, or Rostropovich—this is music that only a young man with stamina to burn and a hearty sense of the absurd would dare undertake—you might also reflect on the fact that many cellists would never dare "lower themselves" to undertake the concerto that Gulda wrote for Heinrich Schiff in 1980. It's just too far afield. Gulda doesn't just defy norms; by jumping from rock'n'roll to Tyrolean pastoral to a minuet with tambourine and guitar, only to conclude with a circus romp whose three rings morph into more than a passing nod to Stephane Grappelli's hot jazz, he's questioning the very basis for normalcy in music.

As for Jacques Offenbach, whose concerto predates Gulda's by 133 years, do you really expect the champion of the cancan to compose a "Concerto militaire" for concerto and orchestra that takes military expeditions seriously? Instead of gravity, Offenbach gives us one light operatic line after another to savor. He also throws in multiple drum and horn fanfares, and, in his final movement, a faux-military version of off-to-the-races that might have gotten him court martialed were it not for the fact that he had the ability to charm a military tribunal into applauding wildly and yelling "Encore!"

You may find yourself applauding the performance rather than the sonics. Even in 24/96 WAV format, the soundstage is somewhat limited, and the sound lacks life and sparkle. But Moreau's virtuosic playing more than compensates. When all is said and done or, in this case, heard, some may be tempted to ask themselves why any cellist would work so hard to master these two ultimately inconsequential, bow and forearm-breaking concertos. The answer is simple: Despite all the grunts and sweat and strain, they are probably having a ball showing off all they can do while you, in turn, are laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all.

spacehound's picture

There, Jason - I do pay attention to your efforts to further our musical knowledge :)

Jason Victor Serinus's picture
Jason Victor Serinus's picture
Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I'm trying to post an appropriate emoji, but this website platform will have nothing of it. Must be too hoi polloi for the high end. Something like that....

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be more like 'hoity-toity'? :-) .........

Axiom05's picture

With so many microphones being used (looks like almost one per instrument), there is no way to get a "natural" soundstage or anything that remotely sounds like a "real" performance.

volvic's picture

Without having heard this new release in its entirety, I believe the original recording with Schiff and Gulda from 1981 is a better bet sonically. I am considering getting this new one as it took me years to warm up to the Gulda cello concerto, but I do admire it and would like to hear a fresher, newer approach from someone else. Only someone as quirky and as talented as Gulda could have done this. If you can find his performances as a pianist I recommend seeking them out. Can never find his recordings of the Beethoven Cello Sonatas with Pierre Fournier at a decent price. A true talent Gulda was.

jporter's picture

Thanks for pointing me towards this amazing piece of music. Cheers!

pbarach's picture

Thanks for writing up this recording, it's on ,my "BUY" list. Meanwhile, check out this 1988 live video of Schiff, Gulda, and the Munich Philharmonic:

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Just wonderful. Gulda first came to my attention when I heard his heavenly playing on a previously unpublished recording of a Mozart concert aria with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. He's been in my consciousness ever since, but reissues of his recordings are too few.

Frank Schröder carries one of Gulda's jazz LPs to shows and has played a bit of it for me. It's a little too tame for my taste, but it sure points the way to this fabulous mash-up of a concerto.