Accompanied by the Savaria Symphony Orchestra, the Franco-Belgian cellist Camille Thomas performs Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. Conductor: Gergely Madaras.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, is a deeply expressive and poignant work, widely regarded as one of the most significant contributions to the cello repertoire. Composed in the aftermath of World War I, it reflects the profound impact of the war on Elgar and the world at large, conveying a sense of melancholy and introspection.
Completed in 1919, this concerto was Elgar’s last major work and differed significantly from his earlier compositions. Marked by a more restrained and introspective style, it contrasts with the grandeur and optimism of his pre-war works. The concerto is known for its lyrical and contemplative qualities, showcasing the cello’s expressive potential. Its emotional depth and introspective nature are thought to mirror Elgar’s feelings of sadness and disillusionment following the war, as well as his sense of alienation in the rapidly changing post-war world.
The first performance of the Cello Concerto was somewhat under-rehearsed and did not receive immediate acclaim, partly due to the orchestra’s lack of preparation. However, over time, it gained recognition and became a beloved piece in the classical music repertoire. A significant factor in its 20th-century revival was the acclaimed recording by cellist Jacqueline du Pré in 1965, which brought a passionate and intense interpretation to the piece.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto remains a staple of the cello repertoire and is celebrated for its emotional depth and lyrical beauty. It stands as a powerful testament to Elgar’s compositional mastery and his ability to convey deep emotion through music.
1. Adagio – Moderato
The first movement of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, sets a profoundly introspective and emotive tone for the entire concerto. It opens with a bold, declamatory statement from the solo cello, which immediately establishes the deeply personal and expressive character of the work. This opening gesture is characterized by its passionate, almost improvisational quality, and it introduces the primary thematic material that will be explored throughout the movement.
Following the solo cello’s opening statement, the orchestra gently enters, supporting and expanding upon the themes introduced by the cello. The movement is structured in a loose sonata form, but Elgar breaks away from traditional formal constraints, allowing the music to flow more freely and expressively. The themes are lyrical and melancholic, often featuring a sense of longing or nostalgia.
The interplay between the solo cello and the orchestra in this movement is particularly notable. The cello often takes on a rhapsodic, almost conversational tone, as if the soloist is engaging in a deeply personal dialogue with the orchestra. The orchestration is delicate and restrained, providing a subtle backdrop that allows the cello’s expressive melodies to shine.
Throughout the first movement, Elgar masterfully balances moments of intense emotion with passages of tender lyricism. The movement concludes with a return to the reflective mood of the opening, leaving a lingering sense of introspection and unresolved emotion. This movement sets the stage for the concerto’s exploration of complex emotional landscapes, combining technical virtuosity with profound expressiveness.
2. Lento – Allegro molto
The second movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, provides a striking contrast to the introspective and somber mood of the first movement. It is characterized by its brisk tempo and rhythmic vitality, offering a more spirited and energetic expression.
Marked “Allegro molto,” this movement is relatively short but packed with lively energy and momentum. The music here is more rhythmic and vigorous, featuring a driving pulse that propels the movement forward. The cello part is particularly challenging, demanding both technical agility and rhythmic precision from the soloist.
Despite its brisk pace, the movement does not lose the emotional depth that permeates the concerto. The cello’s lines, while lively and dynamic, also convey a sense of urgency and intensity. The orchestration is more robust in this movement, with the orchestra playing a more active and pronounced role in driving the momentum and interacting with the cello.
This movement serves as a sort of scherzo within the concerto, offering a burst of energy and a moment of relative lightness amidst the overall emotional depth of the work. Its lively character and rhythmic drive provide a compelling contrast, showcasing Elgar’s ability to explore a wide range of emotions and textures within a single piece. The second movement concludes briskly, setting the stage for the more reflective and expansive third movement.
The third movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, marked “Adagio,” is a deeply reflective and emotionally charged piece. After the vigorous energy of the second movement, this movement returns to a more introspective and somber mood, reminiscent of the concerto’s opening.
The Adagio is characterized by its lyrical and expansive melodic lines, which allow the cello to sing with a profound sense of emotion and expressiveness. The movement opens with a gentle, plaintive theme in the orchestra, setting a mood of contemplation and introspection. The solo cello then enters, elaborating on this theme with a sense of heartfelt longing and melancholy.
Throughout this movement, Elgar’s use of harmony and orchestration creates a rich tapestry of sound that enhances the emotional depth of the music. The orchestral accompaniment is subtle and supportive, providing a delicate backdrop that allows the cello’s expressive voice to take center stage.
One of the most striking aspects of this movement is its sense of spaciousness and unhurried pace. The music unfolds gradually, with each phrase carefully crafted to convey the deepest emotional resonance. The Adagio is often noted for its poignant beauty and its ability to evoke a profound emotional response in listeners.
The movement concludes with a return to the gentle, reflective theme, fading away to a quiet and introspective close. This Adagio stands as a testament to Elgar’s mastery of musical expression, capturing a sense of deep longing and wistful nostalgia that resonates long after the music ends.
4. Allegro – Moderato – Allegro, ma non-troppo – Poco più lento – Adagio
The finale of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, brings the work to a compelling and dramatic conclusion. This movement, marked “Allegro – Moderato – Allegro, ma non-troppo – Poco più lento – Adagio,” showcases a blend of vigorous energy and reflective lyricism, encapsulating the emotional range of the entire concerto.
The movement begins with an energetic and rhythmic opening, marked by a sense of urgency and forward momentum. The cello part is robust and assertive, demanding a high level of virtuosity from the soloist. This opening section is characterized by its driving rhythms and bold orchestral textures, providing a stark contrast to the introspective nature of the previous movement.
As the movement progresses, Elgar introduces a series of varied themes and motifs, some of which echo material from earlier in the concerto. This creates a sense of cohesion and unity within the work as a whole. The music navigates through different moods and textures, ranging from spirited and lively passages to more subdued and lyrical moments.
The movement’s structure is somewhat unconventional, with frequent shifts in tempo and mood. This unpredictability adds to the dramatic impact of the music, keeping the listener engaged and emotionally invested. In the final section of the movement, the music gradually transitions into a more reflective pace, revisiting the concerto’s main themes with a sense of resolution and closure.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto concludes with a return to the Adagio tempo, bringing the emotional journey full circle. The cello’s final statements are poignant and introspective, underscored by the gentle support of the orchestra. This ending leaves a lasting impression of introspection and emotional depth, making the fourth movement a powerful and fitting conclusion to one of Elgar’s most profound and expressive works.
Camille Thomas, born in May 1988 in Paris, France, is an accomplished Franco-Belgian cellist renowned for her exceptional talent and contributions to classical music. Thomas began her cello studies at the tender age of four and quickly advanced, studying under Marcel Bardon at the Conservatoire National de Région de Paris by the age of ten. By sixteen, she had already won her first competition prize for cello performance. Her pursuit of musical excellence led her to study under notable instructors like Philippe Muller, Stephan Forck, Frans Helmerson, and Wolfgang-Emmanuel Schmidt in prestigious institutions in France and Germany.
Thomas’s career flourished with invitations to perform at significant festivals and venues across Europe, including Gaveau Hall in Paris, Victoria Hall in Geneva, and Konzerthaus de Berlin. She has played with various orchestras under the baton of distinguished conductors, earning her acclaim in the international music scene. Her talent has been recognized with numerous national and international awards, including distinctions like the Léopold Bellan competition in Paris and the international Antonio Janigro competition in Croatia. She was also named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2018.
In addition to her solo career, Thomas has a strong affinity for chamber music and has collaborated with various esteemed musicians. She released her debut album, “A Century of Russian Colours,” in 2013, followed by “Réminiscences” in 2016, which garnered critical acclaim and prestigious awards. In 2017, she made history by becoming the first female cellist to sign an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, releasing her first recording with them that included works by Saint-Saëns and Offenbach.
Thomas is also known for her work in film, appearing in “Un baiser papillon” in 2011. She has played on esteemed instruments like the 1788 Ferdinand Gagliano cello and, more recently, the De Munck-Feuermann, a 1730 Stradivarius cello, showcasing her exceptional talent on world-class instruments.
- David Nadien plays the “Pas de deux” violin solo from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake - December 2, 2023
- Mario Lanza sings “Because” [From The Great Caruso] - December 1, 2023
- Chopin: Raindrop Prelude [Lang Lang] - November 30, 2023