Moser and Dresden Philharmonic at Kravis Center

Johannes Moser
South Florida Classical Review

The Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra was the marquee attraction at West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center on Monday night but soloist Johannes Moser gave the evening’s best performances and offered an unfamiliar version of a beloved classic for cello and orchestra. 

Moser, a young and already internationally acclaimed cellist, was soloist in scores by John Williams and Tchaikovsky on the concert’s first half. ... Although he does not possess a large tonal sonority, Moser is an aristocrat of the cello. He carries a musical line on a thin thread of tone, always phrasing with grace and sensitivity. Moser can also play rapid passages with accuracy and near perfect intonation. In a previous South Florida appearance, he gave an outstanding performance of Dvorák’s Cello Concerto with the New World Symphony under Manfred Honeck in 2011.

Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme is a cello classic but the version that is usually heard is not Tchaikovsky’s original score. The score was written for German cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, a professor at the Moscow Conservatory and himself a composer. Tchaikovsky consulted Fitzenhagen about writing for the instrument during composition. The completed score did not meet with Fitzenhagen’s approval so he eventually changed the order of the variations, rewrote some of the solo part and omitted Tchaikovsky’s original finale. His version was published with Tchaikovsky’s grudging approval and has become the standard version that most cellist perform. Tchaikovsky’s original score was rediscovered in the 1940′s and a few cellists have played and recorded it.

Moser has been playing the original version and his performance was a revelation. The work has a more Russian character in Tchaikovsky’s first conception. While Fitzenhagen’s version is smoother and more conventional, the original has greater swings of mood, the solo part at times more difficult. The cadenza comes early in the work and the finale of Fitzenhagen’s score makes its appearance midway through. There are interesting accents and flourishes in the solo line and wind figurations that Fitzenhagen omitted. The original final variations is very Russian and balletic. Overall, the work is less rococo and more typically Tchaikovsky.

This version deserves to be heard more often and it would be hard to imagine a better performance than Moser offered. He shaped the principal melody with restraint and the melancholy variation was understated and subtle. In the rapid-fire finale, he exhibited superb control in the instrument’s highest register.
Read the rest of the review here