Schumann, Schnittke

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schnittke,Schumann
LABELS: EMI Classics
WORKS: First Cello Concerto; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Natalia Gutman (cello)London Philharmonic/Kurt Masur
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54443 2 DDD
Natalia Gutman’s gentle, slightly understated account of the Schumann leaves one wondering how she will cope with Schnittke’s powerful First Cello Concerto, with which it is rather oddly coupled here. Her playing is lovely but could certainly be more robust, and she doesn’t bring anywhere near the passion the late Jacqueline du Pre brought to the work. Yet it is a pleasing interpretation, sympathetically accompanied, and its attraction grows with repeated listening.

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Schnittke’s massive, wide-ranging concerto demands considerable strength and resilience if the soloist is to survive in its dark and threatening landscape. Any weakness in technique or emotional commitment and he or she would be overwhelmed by the music’s violent intensity.

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Gutman, for whom the work was written, is fully equal to the challenge however. While it is clear from her first entry that she identifies with Schnittke’s nervy hypersensitivity, she charts her course firmly and confidently – and in the final Largo her playing rises to heights of greatness. This music is far from comfortable to listen to, and it must be fiendishly difficult to play, but in Gutman’s hands it is an involving and rewarding experience. David Michaels