Schnittke: Cello Sonata No. 1; Cello Sonata No. 2; Epilogue from Peer Gynt; Musica nostalgica

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COMPOSERS: Schnittke
LABELS: Es-dur
WORKS: Cello Sonata No. 1; Cello Sonata No. 2; Epilogue from Peer Gynt; Musica nostalgica
PERFORMER: David Geringas (cello), Tatiana Geringas (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ES 2025 (distr.+49 40 390 98 02)
Alfred Schnittke may no longer be with us, but his iron spirit lives on in the four extraordinary cellists he knew and nurtured – Natalia Gutman and Rostropovich (respective dedicatees of the First and Second Sonatas), Alexander Ivashkin and Lithuanian-born David Geringas. Ivashkin has risen to prominence in the West with a series of recordings including the programme also featured on this disc; now Geringas wins his recorded laurels in the same repertoire with his wife Tatiana, whose formidable technique is certainly a match for the steel fingers of Irina Schnittke, Ivashkin’s partner and the composer’s widow. Add to Ivashkin’s Chandos disc the interpretations of the Second Sonata and the Peer Gynt Epilogue featured on the bonus disc of EMI’s Rostropovich’s 13-CD retrospective, and you may ask whether there is room for another interpreter in this music.

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The answer, as I reel from the vividly engineered impact of the Geringas duo, is a resounding ‘yes’. Schnittke’s concentrated writing for the cello brings out the individual vocal quality of a great instrumentalist, and David Geringas generously describes great arcs of melody even at the heart of as thorny a piece as the late Second Sonata. Its predecessor, fierce and earthy descendant of the Shostakovich tradition, stands at the end of the programme, which begins halfway to that ‘other reality’ Schnittke talks about as Geringas’s passionately human Peer Gynt discourses to the swelling, receding celestial choir of a pre-recorded tape: proof, if any were needed, that the instant spiritual high purveyed by so much recent music is meaningless without anything to pit against it.