Cello Concerto, Op. 58; Cello Sonata; Ballade
Rohan de Saram (cello), Druvi de Saram (piano);
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Anatole Fistoulari
First Hand Records FHR118 72:47 mins
Sheffield-born Sinhalese cellist Rohan de Saram, better known these days as a former member of the Arditti Quartet, was one of the few in the 1970s to record Prokofiev’s first version of what became the Symphony Concerto, shaped by the young Rostropovich and exclusively championed by him up to his death. Though the two works for cello and orchestra have different opus numbers, there’s no denying (unless you’re Steven Isserlis) that the final form improves upon the original in every way – until we get to the cadenza of the 1938 work’s finale and its fascinating closing stages, which are utterly different from the flying exuberance of the Symphony Concerto. Here Saram’s near-perfect intonation and his introspective cast, not always an asset when thrusting forward movement is needed, come into their own. The personable playing of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic under Anatole Fistoulari also makes a good case for the implosion of the argument; the lost soul of the original concerto, which sometimes seems to meander overmuch, is very much part of its character.
Recorded balances and sound in Rohan’s partnership with brother Druvi, a very characterful pianist, aren’t quite right – the cello needs to be placed further forwards and the piano tone isn’t as clear as it presumably was live. But it’s good to have the very individual mesh of fierce lyricism and grotesquerie in the early Ballade, and transitions to more inward modes of expression in the late Sonata are uniquely well done.