Arrangements of works by JS Bach, Brahms, Grieg, Mahler, Massenet, Mozart, Saint-Saëns, Schubert, Schumann, Scriabin and Tchaikovsky
Mischa Maisky (cello); with Sascha Maisky, Janine Jansen (violin), Julian Rachlin (viola), Sophie Hallynck (harp), Lily Maisky, Martha Argerich (piano)
DG 483 5561 83:54 mins
How many chocolates can you scoff before starting to feel sick, I asked myself while listening to this release. Sporting his trademark magnificent mane and silk shirt on the cover picture, Mischa Maisky, together with family members and high-profile colleagues, offers a succession of unrelentingly sentimental – and often gorgeous – arrangements of famous pieces.
The overall effect is rather strange. The uniformly slow tempos, string-and-piano timbres, and the narrow range of styles (think very long 19th century) flatten music history into one nonstop, vibrato-propelled, tear-jerking experience. Whether by Bach, Mozart, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Grieg, Schubert, Schumann or Brahms, it all gets the same treatment. But this is not necessarily unpleasant; Maisky’s lavish, old fashioned sound applied to this appealing repertoire will seduce many listeners. And it’s not always old-fashioned either; the opening arrangement for cello and harp of Mahler’s Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony uses multi-track recording to layer the ‘voices’. I’m also all in favour of arrangements, which remain the best way to get to know repertoire from the inside, and these arrangements are fairly staid in comparison with, say, those by Liszt or Busoni. The idea of cherry-picking movements and arranging them into a miscellaneous programme is also a typical 19th-century thing, although no musician would have dreamed of presenting 14 uninterrupted slow numbers. But if you can devour an entire tin of Quality Street in one sitting, then this is for you.