Prokofiev: Cello Sonata; Sonata for Solo Cello; Cinq mélodies; Ballade

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Black Box
WORKS: Cello Sonata; Sonata for Solo Cello; Cinq mélodies; Ballade
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello), John York (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBM 1027
For all its melodious accessibility, Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata is a notoriously difficult work to bring off. It takes an interpreter of consummate musicality and fertile imagination to meld the seemingly rhapsodic structures of the outer movements into a convincing entity, while the work’s final bars can so easily sound contrived and uncomfortably bombastic. Of the two cellists featured in these recordings, the Bulgarian Ventseslav Nikolov is far less persuasive in both respects, and fails to extract sufficient intensity and character from Prokofiev’s melodic lines. Similar criticisms can be applied to the Schnittke First Cello Sonata which sounds rather detached and aimless in comparison with Maria Kliegel’s heart-rending account on Naxos.

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The performance of the Prokofiev Sonata from Wallfisch and York is an entirely different matter. Here both artists inject a real sense of atmosphere into the opening paragraph, exploiting the multi-faceted character of the music to the full, and they are equally irresistible in the gentle mockery of the Moderato. Perhaps Truls Mørk and Lars Vogt are even more imaginative in their outstanding performance on Virgin, but the present recording has much to recommend it, particularly since the rest of Wallfisch’s programme is so enterprising. True, the early Ballade, following the hard-edged manner of the Second Piano Concerto, is hardly vintage Prokofiev, and the Solo Cello Sonata, posthumously completed by Vladimir Blok, suffers from a few passages of strained double-stops. But Wallfisch’s transcription of the Cinq mélodies, normally performed on the violin, is absolutely inspired, so much so that it is sure to feature regularly in recital programmes in the future. Erik Levi