Bloch • Caplet • Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Bloch; Caplet; Ravel
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Bloch • Caplet • Ravel
WORKS: Voice in the Wilderness; Schelomo; Ephiphanie (d’apres use legend ethiopienne); Kaddish
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello); BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Benjamin Wallfisch


This imaginatively conceived and warmly recorded programme places the two major works for cello and orchestra by Bloch in the context of music by two of the Swiss-born composer’s French contemporaries. It opens with a powerfully conceived performance of Voice in the Wilderness (1936), a work that in lesser hands can so easily seem episodic and lacking in direction. Here, however, both soloist and orchestra negotiate the lyrical ebb and flow of the musical argument with such a strong sense of purpose that one is swept away by the ardour of the playing.

Similar qualities abound in the performance of Schelomo (1915). Whereas some cellists can be unnecessarily mannered and expressively self-indulgent in this work, Raphael Wallfisch sustains a nobility of utterance throughout, so making the emotional climaxes near the end of the work all the more affecting. Benjamin Wallfisch and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales deliver urgent yet refined accompaniments, highlighting the warmth and exotic luminosity of Bloch’s orchestration.

Ravel’s Kaddish, performed here in the composer’s 1920 orchestration, is hauntingly evocative. But the most fascinating piece is André Caplet’s Epiphanie. Composed in 1923, this complex score, inspired to a certain extent by Debussy, encompasses a vast array of emotions from sensual lyricism and mysterious reflection to violence and terror. It also incorporates a remarkably original central cadenza where the solo cello is supported throughout by an ominous repeated crotchet pattern on the timpani. Wallfisch father and son revel in the score’s virtuosity presenting a performance that is both atmospheric and physically exhilarating.


Erik Levi