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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich/Saint-Saens
LABELS: IMP Classics
WORKS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat; Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40; Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor
PERFORMER: Carlos Prieto (cello)Doris Stevenson (piano)Xalapa SO, Mineria SO/Herrera de la Fuente
Because of its compact design and uncomplicated mode of expression, Saint-Saëns’s First Cello Concerto tends to be underestimated in comparison with the grandest of 19th-century string concertos. Yet it continues to hold a firm place in the repertoire, and is adored by cellists for its grateful writing and its finely judged passages of lyricism and virtuosic display.


To be quite frank, neither of these two new performances of the work really poses a strong enough challenge to the finest recordings in the catalogue. Carlos Prieto, recorded at a public concert, presents a relatively straightforward and rather unimaginative account that is marred by some poor orchestral playing. Allison Eldredge has a much more defined personality and her tone encompasses a greater variety of tone, but she overdoes the rubato at times, inflating the simplicity of Saint-Saëns’s melodic writing.


Prieto’s disc is the more generous in offering two of Shostakovich’s major works for cello. Again, neither performance achieves the range of characterisation that you get from Rostropovich, although the playing is always technically assured. Eldredgeprogramme of mainly French music may appear less enterprising, but she delivers a particularly gutsy account of the Lalo, and there’s some eloquent phrasing in the Fauré and Glazunov. This is a pretty impressive disc in places, but for a fraction of the cost you can get much of the same repertoire performed with even greater insight by Heinrich Schiff on a bargain-priced DG release. Erik Levi