Debussy, Prokofiev: Cello Music

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COMPOSERS: Debussy,Prokfiev
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Debussy: Suite for cello and orchestra (arr. Beamish); Prokofiev: Cello Concertino, Op. 132 (arr. Blok); Bloch: From Jewish Life (arr. Palmer); Ravel: Deux mélodies hébraïques (arr. Tognetti)
PERFORMER: Steven Isserlis (cello); Tapiola Sinfonietta/Gábor Takács-Nagy
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1782

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Among the earliest of Debussy’s long-lost compositions is a Suite for cello and orchestra written in 1882. Of the original work, only two movements have survived in a version for cello and piano; but Steven Isserlis was so convinced of their quality that he engaged Sally Beamish to orchestrate them and make a speculative completion of the work by adding arrangements drawn from the composer’s early piano pieces and songs (in this particular case the Rêverie, Danse bohémienne and a setting of de Banville’s Nuit d’étoiles).

Thanks to Beamish’s wonderfully sensitive feeling for orchestral timbre, Isserlis’s ardent delivery and a crystal clear recording, the net result is attractive. But it’s hardly a significant addition to the repertory, given the rather derivative nature of Debussy’s writing at this stage of his career.

Alas Prokofiev’s Concertino, conceived in the year before his death, also remains a torso though Rostropovich completed the work according to the composer’s instructions. Isserlis presents an affectionate account of this gentle unassuming music, as arranged here by Vladimir Blok.

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The Tapiola Sinfonietta accompany him with great sensitivity both here and in the Jewish inflected pieces by Bloch and Ravel where the cellist’s instinctive shaping of the melismatic lines produces playing that is peerless in its heartfelt sincerity. Erik Levi