Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Britten

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Prokofiev,Shostakovich
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40; Cello Sonata in C, Op. 119; Cello Sonata in C, Op. 65
PERFORMER: Pieter Wispelwey (cello)Dejan Lazi? (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 20098
The shadow of Rostropovich must lie long over other cellists who play these works: apart from the Shostakovich, all of them were written for him. Jamie Walton doesn’t quite overcome this burden – the Prokofiev has a lightweight feel, beginning with the straight and metronomic introduction to the first movement. In contrast, Pieter Wispelwey seems to be searching creatively for the way forward, with a more subtle use of rubato and a greater range of instrumental colour. He’s also captured in a more generous acoustic, so that the pizzicato chords which accompany the second theme on the piano ring out rather than sounding dry as they do on Walton’s closer recording. Both Wispelwey and Dejan Lazi? find time for the wit of the piece to register in their phrasing, as well as being more generous in tone and flexibility of line in the lyrical music: the trio of the scherzo really points up Walton and Daniel Grimwood’s cooler approach.

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Both of Rostropovich’s currently available versions of the Prokofiev are over 50 years old, and have immense authority, but you’ll have to put up with dim mono sound. For a modern version, I’d go for Steven Isserlis, even freer than Wispelwey in his response to the music, slightly better recorded, and well matched by his partner Olli Mustonen. Their CD also includes the Shostakovich, a weightier work than the Prokofiev, and here the honours with Wispelwey are more even. In the Britten, though, good as Wispelwey is, he can’t displace Rostropovich and Britten’s classic account, a stunning mix of virtuosity, fantasy and passion.

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Musically, the Kabalevsky and Miaskovsky on Walton’s CD aren’t in the same league as the other works here, and though the playing is good, it lacks that extra edge of magic and inevitability which would raise them above the enjoyably worthy. Bronze medal music needs gold medal performance. Martin Cotton