Prokofiev: Symphony-Concerto

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: A Tcherepnin,Crumb,Prokofiev
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Prokofiev: Symphony-Concerto; A Tcherepnin: Suite for cello solo; Crumb: Sonata for cello solo
PERFORMER: Pieter Wispelwey (cello); Rotterdam PO/Vassily Sinaisky
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 27909 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This beautifully engineered live recording of Prokofiev’s Symphony Concerto, given in Rotterdam’s De Doelen in November 2007, is on the whole a very impressive achievement.

As always, Pieter Wispelwey is a charismatic soloist who, for the most part, carries his audience through Prokofiev’s epic narrative with a good deal of conviction, embracing wholeheartedly the work’s vast array of emotions, which, in the central movement, move schizophrenically from moments of tenderness and nostalgia to those of aggression and anguish. Wispelwey is also particularly good at creating a sense of coherence in the cadenza passages. In lesser hands, these sections often give the impression that the composer is merely marking time.

Not everything, however, is completely convincing. I have some reservations about the opening Andante which strikes me as being a little too contemplative, requiring greater momentum and urgency – qualities which are more apparent in Truls Mørk’s outstanding recording for Virgin Classics. I also wonder whether Wispelwey lingers too much over the beautiful second theme in the ensuing Allegro, beautiful as it sounds.

There are no such qualms, however, about the orchestral contribution from the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Vassily Sinaisky, which demonstrates an innate feeling for the idiosyncratic colouring of Prokofiev’s orchestration from the very first ominous pedal note in the tuba. Erik Levi

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The two unaccompanied cello pieces provide an extremely enterprising coupling. Wispelwey draws a wonderfully haunting melodic line through the Oriental inflections of the Tcherepnin, while the Crumb, an early work strongly influenced by Bartók, is no less compelling.