Pieter Wispelwey

Pieter Wispelwey – ROCOCO

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Pieter Wispelwey recorded Tchaikovsky’s Rococo variations for the first ever released SACD on Channel Classics. He now returns to the subject adding two intriguing pieces: CPE Bach’s Concerto in A Major Wq 172 and Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, arranged for Cello and string orchestra. The title of the disc is ROCOCO, Real, Retro and New and man can say that this is exactly what you will find on this album. The pieces all share a elegant and great Rococo feeling but they all come from a completely different period in musical history. An interesting thing to mention, and very much in the atmosphere of the program, is that Pieter plays the CPE Bach concerto an octave higher. This gives the piece a very shiny character and it also refers to the flute version of the piece. A lot of virtuosity and brilliance is the outcome of the decision to play it in this way.

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Pieter Wispelwey and the Flanders Symphony Orchestra

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Pieter Wispelwey once again teamed up with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra and conductor Seikyo Kim for a brand new release on ONYX Classics. After the successful release of the Britten cello concerto they decided to record a completely French program with Edouard Lalo’s cello concerto in D minor and the second cello concerto in D minor by Camille Saint Saëns. As Pieter writes about the concertos in the CD booklet:

“The two concertos on this disc belong to the small elite of Romantic cello concertos that have made it through to the 21st century – albeit in the case of the second Saint Saëns, barely or in the slipstream of its popular predecessor.”

In between the two concertos you will find the Love Scene from Romeo and Juliette by Hector Berlioz. An orchestral piece that completes this romantic and virtuoso program.

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Wispelwey and Giacometti – Chopin / Mendelssohn

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After the success of their Schubert disc on Onyx Classics with the Arpeggione Sonata, Fantasy in C and the Duo in A, Pieter Wispelwey and Paolo Giacometti got together for a new recording on period instruments. This time they where recording the Chopin and Mendelssohn Sonatas for cello and piano. Beside these masterpieces, Pieter and Paolo recorded Mendelssohns ‘Lied ohne Worte’ opus 109 and three Chopin waltzes opus 64 (arr Davidov), including the ‘Minute Waltz’.

During the session I experimented with a simple camera in the hall and edited the recorded material to a ‘look behind the scenes’:

[flv: 500 300]

The Mennonite church in Haarlem was our recording venue. Pieter played his Guadagnini cello with gut strings and Paolo played on a very nice piano from the mid nineteenth century. The piano, an 1848 Erard,  is from the collection of Edwin Beunk and Edwin did the tuning himself.

The CD is released on Onyx Classics (ONYX4078). On the ONYX website you will find more information and also links for downloading the music to your audioplayer.

“Pieter Wispelwey once again joins with Paolo Giacometti, in a programme of Chopin and Mendelssohn. However, there is another great musical figure on this disc – the cellist and composer Karl Davydov, who studied with Mendelssohn’s composer friends Ignaz Moscheles and Ferdinand David. Davydov’s brilliant arrangements of the Chopin Waltzes op.64 form a sparkling interlude between Mendelssohn’s virtuosic Second Sonata, and Chopin’s masterful sonata for cello and piano.” (from the ONYX website)

Project info:

Recording producers: Daan van Aalst, Pieter Wispelwey

Balance engineer and editor: Daan van Aalst

Recording venue: Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, Netherlands

Recording dates: 10–12 January 2011

Cello: JB Guadagnini (Parma 1760)

Piano: Erard 1848 from collection Edwin Beunk, Enschede, Netherlands

Piano Tuner: Edwin Beunk

Pieter Wispelwey and the Flanders Symphony Orchestra – Seikyo Kim

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In spring 2009 Pieter Wispelwey asked me to be involved in an adventurous project. He and the Flanders Symphony Orchestra planned to perform the Cello Symphony by Benjamin Britten that they decided to record for Onyx Classics.

Seikyo Kim, who has been appointed as the orchestra’s new chief conductor, conducted the orchestra during three concerts of which the last one was recorded for the CD.

The live recording with additional patch sessions took place at ‘de Singel’ in Antwerp where an enthusiastic audience experienced the deep emotions of the Cello Symphony. The piece has a very dark mood but also a strong sense of hope and the desire for salvation.

This was my first confrontation with his concerto (because of course that’s what it is) and it was a profound and gratifying shock. For me now, this masterpiece stands among the very best in the cello concerto repertoire.

From the menacing darkness of the opening to the light of the orgiastic closing hymn, the contrasts in this piece are phenomenally stark. In his first Suite for solo cello Britten demonstrates the same generosity. His inspiration leaves us with an adventurously structured piece, almost a series of fables, that surprises, impresses and moves us.

(Pieter Wispelwey, from the sleave notes on

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(this video is used with kind permission of

In order to create a complete CD program Pieter chose the First Suite for Solo Cello by Benjamin Britten to accompany the Cello Symphony. We chose the Mennonite Church in Deventer to be the recording venue for this solo recording.

Project info:

Recording venue: De Singel, Antwerpen (Cello Symphony) / Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer (Cello Solo Suite)

Recording Producers: Daan van Aalst, Pieter Wispelwey

Recording Engineers: Johan Kennivé (Cello Symphony) and Daan van Aalst (Cello Solo Suite)

Editing: Daan van Aalst

Pieter Wispelwey and Paolo Giacometti

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In the summer of 2009 Pieter Wispelwey and Paolo Giacometti recorded a Schubert CD for Onyx Classics. Interesting enough; none of the pieces on the disc where originally written for Cello and Piano… And then they also decided to play on period instruments!

Well, let’s start with the program:

FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
– Duo in A for cello and piano D574 (arr. Wispelwey)

– Sonata in A minor for cello and piano D821 ‘Arpeggione’

– Fantasy in C for cello and piano D934 (arr. Wispelwey)

Pieter played on his Guadagnini (Parma 1760) with gut strings and Paolo used the very delicate Lagrassa (1815) piano from the Edwin Beunk collection. This piano was also used for their earlier recording of the Arpeggione Sonata (Channel Classics 1996).

I don’t do it too often, putting on gut strings and celebrating the delightful match of their colours with those of a Viennese fortepiano: denying myself the glossiness and comfortable reliability of steel strings and a Steinway, and instead enjoying the poetry and expressiveness – that specific mix of fierceness and delicateness – of the instruments, as heard by Schubert and his contemporaries. Nor, for that matter, had I ever thought I would dare to tackle the Fantasy on period instruments.

(Pieter Wispelwey)

Indeed, the Fantasy in C is a virtuoso piece and it seems to be almost impossible to play this violin sonata on the cello. It is not simply a matter of playing the violin part an octave lower because the cello can easily be overshadowed by the piano. Pieter’s arrangement together with the elegant and almost fragile sound of the Viennese piano gave the recording of this sonata a very natural touch as if the piece was written for the cello!

I found the Fantasy, especially, remarkably convincing in its new guise. The transposition to cello increases the difficulties of what is already a demanding work, and enhances the sense of virtuosity as Wispelwey triumphantly surmounts each hurdle.

(Gramophone magazine)

I recorded this CD using my High Resolution recording set. After years of hiring and borrowing equipment it was a great pleasure to work with my own recording set. As you can see on the picture below Pieter is sitting on a small platform that allows the sound to develop freely in the rather small hall.

(during the recording session in Eindhoven)

Recording producers: Daan van Aalst, Pieter Wispelwey

Balance engineer and editor: Daan van Aalst

Recording location: Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, Eindhoven, Netherlands

Recording dates: 7–9 July 2009

Cello: Guadagnini (Parma 1760)

Piano: Fortepiano: Salvatore Lagrassa, Viennese School, ca.1815 from Collection Edwin Beunk, Enschede, Netherlands

Piano Tuners: Carolien Dopheide, Edwin Beunk