Debussy, Barber, Prokofiev

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Barber,Debussy,Prokofiev
LABELS: Danacord
WORKS: Cello Sonata in D minor; Scherzo in C; Intermezzo in C minor
PERFORMER: Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello), Nina Kavtaradze (piano)
Veteran Danish cellist Erling Blöndal Bengtsson is a performer whose plain-dealing musical integrity always puts the composer’s intentions first. His fastidious recordings (listen score-in-hand; you’ll rarely find an unheeded dynamic marking or performance direction) are underpinned by faultless technique, eloquent musicianship, and fertile imagination.


His account of Barber’s Sonata of 1932 is uncannily reminiscent of Raya Garbousova’s pioneering 1947 recording, now available on Pearl, taking the same forthright, vital view of the piece, without overdramatising it. To prove the point, Bengtsson’s most recent rival, Canadian cellist Shauna Rolston (CBC), sounds outwardly impressive, but her grandiose gestures usually falter at moments where a less rhetorical approach would have made better musical sense. Bengtsson just plays what’s written, and needs nothing more.


Similar restraint also informs Blöndal Bengtsson’s unmannered and natural account of the Debussy Sonata, also heard on Rolston’s CBC disc. Its impressionist language leaves a tremendous amount to the instinct of the performer, and this superb realisation endorses the point that less is often more in Debussian terms. Prokofiev’s Op. 119 Sonata receives a leonine, hard-driven reading, less rhythmically indulgent than the otherwise magnificently played Yo-Yo Ma/Emanuel Ax Sony collaboration. Impressive performances, and Danacord’s recording is finely balanced and natural. Michael Jameson