Alexander Ramm (cello)
Melodiya MEL CD 10 02568 71:31 mins
Britten’s solo suites, originally composed for Rostropovich, are now something of a calling card for the next generation of cellists, and for good reason. With recording opportunities reduced, how better to showcase your interpretative and technical prowess than with works that scale the heights and plumb the depths of the instrument?
Alexander Ramm, whose teacher was Natalia Shakhovskaya, one of Rostropovich’s outstanding pupils, delivers performances of depth, seriousness and meditative beauty. They do not, however, measure up to those of, say, Alban Gerhardt, Truls Mørk or Pieter Wispelwey: intense introversion erodes momentum. He writes in the sleeve notes that Shakhovskaya’s refrain was: ‘Listen to yourself, listen as far as you can…’ – and one feels he is listening, lingering over every note, ensuring it resonates perfectly, at the expense of the overall line. There’s great precision here, but already the first ‘Canto’ of Suite No. 1 is over-careful. The fugue is rhythmically limp, and an infinitely poignant ‘Lamento’ is not balanced with a sufficiently mercurial ‘Serenata’ or Presto. The lugubriously obsessive Second Suite is always a challenge, but he almost achieves stasis in its Andante, and fails to inject much-needed life into the dotted-rhythms of the Ciaccona. Only in the Third, the most personal of the suites, infused with Russian song and prayer, does Ramm adopt a freer, bolder approach and finally reveals himself as a compelling communicator.