Antonín Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in b-minor next to André Caplet’s Épiphanie (d’après une légende éthopienne): the combination of pieces that French Swiss cellist Nadège Rochat chose for her album seems extraordinary. “Pieces, that despite their high compositional quality receive little attention fascinate me. With this recording, I want to give the audience a chance to get to know more unknown cello literature than just Dvořák’s Cello Concerto,” says the musician who had already chosen the combination of popular and less popular pieces for her prior CD. After having recorded Ralph Vaughan Williams in 2018 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), she felt “immediately seduced by the soundscape, the flexibility and the orchestra’s virtuosity […].”
Nadège Rochat feels connected to the musical worlds of foreign epochs and their culture through both of these pieces. The natural power of both compositions has always fascinated her. “In my interpretations, I am fusing culture and nature. I am very connected to nature; I take my world views and inspiration from nature, and I ask myself what role I can occupy as a human in this world. This question is the focal point of all cultures throughout time.” Her curiosity for the cultures of this world and their desire for connection is also present in her piece of choice by Caplet, the title Épiphanie (d’après une légende éthiopienne) points to Ethiopia and the country’s connection to Christianity. Épiphanie describes the Christian celebration regarding the birth of Jesus. In addition to that was the Queen of Saba, whose kingdom supposedly was part of Ethiopia, said to be the lover of King Salomo in Israel according to legends. “I imagine Épiphanie to be the followers of the Queen of Saba, including her animals and her court. For me, this piece of work is often very feminine and sensual, which goes along with the character of the Queen of Saba,” says Nadège Rochat. “I would have loved to have her on the cover, but I decided to make it more subtle, especially because of the much-discussed topic of cultural appropriation. So, I made a collage out of my collodion photography with a camera from the 1830s! — And a picture of a lioness. Fully transparent to also show my wild side and, of course, the connection to Ethiopia.”
Caplet’s work was created two years before his death in 1925. The composer died early due to the aftermath of his voluntary involvement at the front lines of World War I. In his final years, he stopped working as a conductor, which gave him more time to focus on composing and delving into catholic mysticism, which ended up being the inspiration for Épiphanie. He himself called it one of his most important works.
Wild and melancholically powerful is also Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in b-minor, which he composed during his time in New York from 1894 to early 1895. He dedicated it to his close friend Czech cellist Hanuš Wihan. But Wihan is not the only one who is memorialised in this special concert. Dvořák’s composition especially remembers his young love from his home in Bohemia, actor Josefína Kaunicová, who had died of disease during his stay in New York. Many people see his yearning for her eternalised in the Cello Concerto in b-minor, which is regarded as a referential piece of cello literature. Nadège Rochat agrees: “It sounds like Dvořák doesn’t want to say goodbye to Josefína nor the piece… as if the final movement would never want to die.”
Release: November 5, 2021, on Ars Produktion.