Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 58. Cello Concertino in G minor, Op. 132
(arr. Blok, cadenza Schnittke, realised Ivashkin).
Alexander Ivashkin (cello);
Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Valeri Polyansky.
Chandos CHAN9890 [61.13]
This is an outstanding disc which pays tribute to Prokofiev's fascination
with the cello. Alexander Ivashkin's championship of the works on this disc
is complete. He is full-toned and lyrical throughout, projecting a luscious
sound which the Chandos engineers capture to perfection.
The performance of the E minor concerto is the first recording of the complete
concerto (the previous recording by Janos Starker and the Philharmonia Orchestra
under Walter Susskind dates from the mid-1950s and was issued on Columbia
22CX1425, but was disfigured by extensive cuts). The piece was finished in
September 1938 and shares many points of contact with the cripplingly difficult
Sinfonia concertante, Op. 125.
The impassioned melodies of Op. 58's opening Andante suit Ivashkin
well. Polyansky delights in Prokofiev's endless invention: listen to the
almost spectral orchestration at 5.40 in the first movement, for example.
The characteristic angular lines of the Allegro giusto are winningly
brought off. The cumulative effect of the long finale (19.31) results in
a memorable experience.
The Concertino in G minor was unfinished at Prokofiev's death. The version
here is arranged by Vladimir Blok (1932-96), with a cadenza by Schnittke
and is realized by Ivashkin. This is an excellent modern alternative to
Rostropovich's version on Russian Revelation RV10102.
Blok's economical and delicate orchestration is convincing. Ivashkin asked
Schnittke to compose the cadenza, but he was in the end unable to provide
one. Perhaps the statement on the cover 'cadenza by Schnittke realized by
Ivashkin' is slightly over-ambitious, but out of their various discussions
Ivashkin has put together a cadenza which includes the beginning of Schnittke's
Madrigal, in Memoriam Oleg Kagan (1991) for solo cello and also
Schnittke's arrangement of a viola da gamba obbligato for solo cello from
Bach's St John Passion.
All of this extra-Prokofievian input might seem to take us a long way from
the original, but the spirit is intact and this twenty-minute piece makes
for fascinating listening.