Stravinsky, Britten, Dutilleux & Debussy

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Dutilleux & Debussy,Stravinsky
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Tatjana Vassilieva
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Tatjana Vassilieva (cello); Yumiko Urabe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555762
Outright winner of the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris during the 2001 Rostropovich cello competition, Tatjana Vassilieva was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia, in 1977, and commenced cello studies aged six. Other recent successes, including the top prize at the 1999 Adam Cello Competition in New Zealand, brought her a string of orchestral and chamber engagements throughout the world. This Naxos disc is her first commercial recital recording.

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Vassilieva gives declamatory, forthright accounts of these works, though it’s hard to resist the conclusion that her playing is driven more by technique than intuition. Thus the extrovert commedia dell’arte language of Stravinsky’s Suite (transcribed with Piatigorsky’s help from the Pergolesi-inspired ballet Pulcinella) is capably served, while the introspective ‘Elegia’ from Britten’s Cello Sonata and substantial portions of the Debussy Sonata reveal a disappointing lack of insight.

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Henri Dutilleux’s Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher for solo cello aren’t easy to bring off. In Vassilieva’s performance, the highlight here, every unconventional tonal effect tells. The plucked glissandi in the first movement, and the quotes from Bartók’s 1937 Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (premiered by Sacher) have the required ethereal character. Only in the finale’s reflective central episode could you wish for greater and more abrupt contrasts. Michael Jameson