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The Russian Album

Christoph Croisé (cello), Alexander Panfilov (piano) (Avie)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Russian Album
Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata; Shostakovich: Cello Sonata; Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges – March; Shchedrin: Im Stile von Albeniz; Thomas Demenga: New York Honk
Christoph Croisé (cello), Alexander Panfilov (piano)
Avie AV 2410   73:33 mins

In this recital Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata, composed in 1934, marks the transition from the outright Romanticism of Rachmaninov’s to the satire of the three shorter pieces. It’s a performance equally well poised, too. In Alexander Panfilov, cellist Christoph Croisé has a pianist who can match him for soulful, scrupulous introspection but who also guides the big outbursts and then turn to a darker cast of thought. They’re in perfect balance – listen to the deftness with which roles are reversed in the trio of Shostakovich’s short, sharp scherzo – and capture every facet of this remarkable work, which seems so simple to begin with yet evades pigeonholing.

The Rachmaninov is more of a curate’s egg, with both artists allowing plenty of space but not extravagance or bullishness in the outer movements, yet not quite capturing the ideal rubato or centredness in the romantic melodies of the Allegro scherzando and Andante; and here, perhaps, one wants more of a golden tone than Croisé has to offer.

The high jinks offered here are delicious. First there’s Shchedrin’s In the Style of Albéniz (sort of) beginning with a Russian-school tumult from Panfilov and weird harmonics/overtones from Croisé in his transcription; then there’s Prokofiev’s Three Oranges march, turning in some surprise last-minute glissandos; and Thomas Demenga’s New York Honk – it has to be called a ‘bonus track’ since a Swiss outsider doesn’t quite fit the ‘Russian Album’ concept – bowling the Big Apple streets and taking in various car/taxi horns. Sound is full and vivid, though the pianist briefly overpowers the cellist in Rachmaninov’s second movement.

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David Nice