Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
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] [DDD]
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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.

Unhesitatingly recommended.

Colin Clarke

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