Kancheli: Mourned by the Wind; Simi

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COMPOSERS: Kancheli
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Mourned by the Wind
WORKS: Mourned by the Wind; Simi
PERFORMER: Alexander Ivashkin (cello); Russian State SO/Valeri Polyansky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10297
Simi is subtitled ‘Bleak reflections for cello and orchestra’, and, like most of Kancheli’s music, proceeds at a stately pace, with wispy fragments of melody interrupted by climaxes which disperse almost as soon as they arrive. The basic language is simple and tonal – here the melodic fragments are very little more than ascending and descending scales – and it needs correspondingly artless playing. Alexander Ivashkin’s is almost too beautiful, with a tendency to swell on longer notes, and a vibrato that is over-sweet. Turning back to Rostropovich, the work’s dedicatee, is to discover a much more subtle palette of sound: shades of grey that still manage to be completely riveting.

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Mourned by the Wind is slightly less discontinuous than Simi, and in places even more explosive. The second movement builds up an almost conventional head of steam, well-served by the depth and range of the recording, which gives as much clarity to massed brass and percussion as to the quiet tones of the spinet. Again, although Ivashkin is sensitive to the nuances of the music, he has a tendency to over-romanticise – sugaring the sugar in more sustained passages. The piece was originally written for Yuri Bashmet, and the more fragile sound of the viola suits the music better than the cello: I’d go for Kim Kashkashian’s understated performance, almost as well recorded, which lets the music speak for itself. Martin Cotton