LABELS: Cello Classics
WORKS: Sinfonia concertante
PERFORMER: Daniil Shafran (cello), Nina Musinyan (piano); USSR State SO/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Leningrad PO/Dmitri Kabalevsky
CATALOGUE NO: CC 1008 ADD
Daniil Shafran (1923-97) was one of musical Russia’s best-kept secrets. Revered by Western cellists who’d occasionally encounter his Melodiya LPs, Shafran rarely travelled outside the former USSR, shunning the globetrotting, PR-driven lifestyle of the itinerant virtuoso. Famed for his phenomenal technique, legendary concentration and unmistakable sound, Shafran’s discographic legacy continues to amaze, whenever rare or long-deleted material resurfaces.
Cello Classics, the specialist label masterminded by cellist Sebastian Comberti, has exhumed three incredible performances for this Shafran tribute. Let’s hope there’s more to come, perhaps Shafran’s unsurpassed 1949 version of Davidov’s Concerto No. 2, briefly available on Russian Disc.
This collection opens with a live 1961 Moscow Conservatory recording of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante, under Rozhdestvensky. The performance is nothing less than electrifying, with Shafran’s virtuosity gripping from first note to last. Sonically, his 1967 Leningrad account of Kabalevsky’s Second Concerto, with the composer conducting, is marginally less successful, with predictably close instrumental perspectives and compressed dynamic range. Shafran’s playing is riveting, however, and infused with a warmth and sincerity unmatched since. Finally, the Georgian composer and cellist Sulkhan Tsintsadze’s idiomatic folk pieces (of 1952) make an ideal filler. Mandatory listening for cellists everywhere. Michael Jameson