Rachmaninov/Miaskovsky

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov/Miaskovsky
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Cello Sonata in G minor; Vocalise; Two Pieces, Op. 2; Cello Sonata No. 1 in D
PERFORMER: Truls Mørk (cello); Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45119 2
The two personalities on this disc have struck me as ill-suited in concert: Thibaudet is an undeniably chic pyrotechnician, while Mørk can project an almost naive sincerity that belies his jet-set career. However, in this repertoire the combination of glitter and serenity works: Thibaudet drives the Rachmaninov Sonata forward with alacrity, making light fantastic of the gargantuan piano part. Within this dazzle, Mørk finds space to shape each phrase with the utmost care and an impressive legato. In the Scherzo he is not afraid to make the triplets gruff, although throughout there is a nasal buzz to his cello sound which takes some getting used to. Thibaudet’s tumultuous cadential outbursts in the development of this movement are on the appropriate orchestral scale, and his slow movement is, again, grandly Romantic. Amidst this, Mørk achieves a real tenderness, underpinning the major-minor shifts of the movement with subtle colouring.

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Miaskovsky’s First Cello Sonata is an irresistible melodic outpouring. With its sinewy lines, arching form and dense harmonies it is a fine combination of French and Russian styles. I look forward to Mørk’s performance of the Second.

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There are already some marvellous recordings of both these works – Tortelier’s wild Rachmaninov being a particular favourite – but if only for Mørk’s touching readings of the rarely-heard early Rachmaninov Two Pieces this disc is worth a hearing. Helen Wallace