In 1942, just as Emanuel Feuermann was escaping the shadow of Pablo Casals, he died, the result of a botched routine surgery. He was only 39--Casals's age when he cut his first records in 1915. This irony was compounded in 1950, when the 76-year-old Casals decided to resume giving concerts after an 11-year retirement. He performed until he died at 97--more than 30 years after Feuermann. Casals and the cello are still almost synonymous in the public mind. But Feuermann, now largely forgotten, is actually the better cellist.
He was the first cellist to play with the ease of a great violinist. And no cellist since has matched, much less surpassed, his combination of precise intonation, depth and intensity of sound, clarity of articulation, and heart-piercing, but discerning, musicianship. Twelve performances on Music & Arts' Lost Feuermann reappear for the first time since their original 78 rpm release. That most of them are "lollipops" does not matter. Feuermann's natural command and faultless musicianship override any preconceptions about such popular works. Saint-Saens' "The Swan" and Bruch's "Kol Nidrei," as well as arrangements of Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat and the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria," are delivered in a manner that substitutes nobility of expression for the usual treacle. Feuermann's unusually fast vibrato never falters; moments of heightened expression are neither cluttered nor cheapened by self-indulgent portamenti. Yet emotional warmth and luscious tone are never sacrificed on the altar of clear-eyed discipline and innate good taste. Feuermann's cello never groaned; it always sang. --Stephen Wigler