Victor Herbert: Cello Concertos Nos. 1, 2, and Irish Rhapsody

review herbert x1 cong

We like the sound of Victor August Herbert, an Irish, German American who worked as a composer, cellist and conductor and was well-known in the US a century ago. A prolific composer, he sounds like a hard-working man upon whom no flies would be found: he was among the composers who worked on the famous Tin Pan Alley in New York and was a founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), championing the rights of composers to profit from their work.

The two main works on here have enjoy varied lifestyles. The Cello Concerto No.1 lay unpublished and unperformed for many years, while Cello Concerto No.2 was received enthusiastically at its premiere and inspired Antonín Dvorák, Herbert’s boss, to compose his own cello concerto.

Both works are varied, with number one being more mournful and the second more impassioned and confident. He’s not a truly great composer but what he lacks in finish he makes up for in gusto and appeal, and both pieces are accessible and sturdy, standing repeated plays. If you like orchestral music but find the “great” works a little daunting, you might like this.

He was obviously a commercially-minded chap and the closing piece, Irish Rhapsody, trades on his Irishness, and very Irish it is too (or Oirish as the sleeve notes say), weaving together classic Irish tunes as it does.

The music comes from the Ulster Orchestra and music director JoAnn Falletta, with Mark Kosower, principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, supplying the solos. Out on Naxos 8573517.

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