Wednesday, 25 March 2009

PROKOFIEV Works for Cello & Orchestra / Alexander Ivashkin / Review

PROKOFIEV Cello Concertos & Sonatas
Russian State Symphony / Valeri Polyansky
Chandos 241-41 (2CDs)
Rating ****1/2

It is a little known fact that Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote three cello concertos. The popular Symphony-Concerto of 1952 (recorded by Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma and others) was an “improvement” and more marketable version of the Concerto in E minor of 1938. Both works use the same thematic material but the earlier work, heard here complete for the first time, includes an expansive finale that is longer than the first two movements combined! To further confuse things, there also exists an uncompleted Concertino (orchestrated by Vladimir Blok) which has a Jewish sounding melody in the finale that also appears in the Symphony-Concerto.

This generous issue houses all three, adding the well-established Sonata for Cello & Piano (Op.119) and an unfinished single-movement Solo Cello Sonata. The cello’s mellow baritone voice is well suited to the Prokofiev’s potent mix of melody and dark wit, while Russian cellist and scholar Alexander Ivashkin’s 1710 Guarneri cello and artistry are the perfect muse for these underrated masterpieces.

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