WORKS: Sinfonia Concertante; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Mischa Maisky (cello); Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 449 821-2
Admirers of Maisky’s rich, resonant tone will not be disappointed; but the vital ingredients for Prokofiev’s elusive late masterpiece, reworked with a rare sense of urgent intensity from an earlier cello concerto, are in short supply here. We miss them most in the crucial middle movement. Maisky is firm of pitch, as throughout, with whirling figurations and full of eloquence, if not quite the right introspection, for the great nostalgic theme that is the heart and soul of the work, but at no point does this become the life-or-death battle against malign elements that his teacher Rostropovich has always made of it. The greater part of the blame must rest with Pletnev’s orchestra, called upon to provide the selectively raw opposition but rarely sufficiently vivid, though the close recording, with its rich bass register, tries to help. Clarinet and trumpet, in what ought to be two whirlwind reigns of terror, are notably weak in characterisation.
Maisky has a simpler vehicle for singing tone in the far less distinguished Cello Concerto by Prokofiev’s lifelong friend and supporter Miaskovsky. The first movement guarantees its survival, a kind of pastoral-elegy halfway house between Glazunov and Shostakovich; though there’s much note-spinning to be endured before its theme returns in full melancholy glory at the end of the finale. David Nice