Schnittke Shostakovich

COMPOSERS: Schnittke Shostakovich
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Schnittke Shostakovich
WORKS: Cello Sonata No. 1; Madrigal
PERFORMER: Alban Gerhardt (cello), Steven Osborne (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67534
Although the respective dates of composition of these two cello sonatas span a period of over 40 turbulent years, there are sufficient musical connections between both works to justify this particular coupling. In many respects Alfred Schnittke seems to take Shostakovich’s unique brand of introverted lyricism and his penchant for grotesque imagery to new levels of intensity. This link is palpably drawn by Alban Gerhardt and Steven Osborne whose approach to the much-recorded Shostakovich is admirably fresh and innovative. Particularly daring is their emotionally numb and extremely slow reading of the Largo coda to the first movement which sounds here as if all the life blood of the Allegro non troppo has simply drained away. In this context, the slow outer movements of the Schnittke seem particularly withdrawn and disturbing, the frenzied activity of the central Presto offering little respite to an all-pervasive feeling

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of gloom and despair.

One might argue that Gerhardt and Osborne are a little cool and reserved in the Scherzo of the Shostakovich which here sounds less exuberant and unbuttoned than in the recordings by Truls Mørk (Virgin) or Mstislav Rostropovich (EMI). Likewise, one can’t help feeling that this excellent duo don’t quite achieve the same level of brooding tension in the Schnittke as David and Tatyana Geringas manage to muster in their definitive recording on the relatively obscure German Es-dur label.

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But listeners wanting to hear these two works as well as a number of varied and fascinating miniatures by both composers should be very happy with this cleanly recorded and strongly performed release. Erik Levi