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Prokofiev, Shostakovich: Cello Concertos / Steven Isserlis

Prokofiev,S. / Shostakovich,D. / Jarvi,Paavo
Release Date: 03/10/2015 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 68037   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei ProkofievDmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Steven Isserlis
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto Op. 58 is a major work. It dates from the mid 1930s, and for a variety of reasons it never enjoyed many performances or much success on the infrequent occasions when it was performed. As a consequence, the composer reworked some of the same material when he composed the Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra for Mstislav Rostropovich. That work wasn’t a hit either, but it has been revived (and recorded) with increasing success over the past few decades.

This recording, then, is important. The original concerto actually sounds very surprisingly unlike the later Symphony-Concerto. It stands on its own as a fully independent piece, as only makes sense when you come to think about it. I frankly
Read more prefer it, and find its neglect unaccountable. Stylistically this is vintage Prokofiev. The piece begins with a preludial Andante featuring a creepy opening ostinato identical to one featured in the ballet Romeo and Juliet (sound clip). You can hear it at the end of Romeo and Juliet Before Parting in the second suite. This opening movement features two themes that will reappear later. Next comes a substantial whirlwind allegro, followed by a theme and variations finale filled with fantastical orchestration and colorful juxtapositions between solo and orchestra. It frankly sounds more difficult to play then its successor, and it takes a couple of repetitions to get the themes into your head, but it’s marvelous music all the same.

Steven Isserlis clearly believes in the work, giving a performance of total commitment and serious emotional intensity. He has an individual tone, especially in his upper register, where bow pressure and vibrato combine to create a “buzz” in the timbre, like a cloud of angry insects. It’s remarkably arresting and it suits this high-tension music very well. The same holds true for the twitchy and neurotic Shostakovich concerto, which is very well played, aptly disturbing, and just as well accompanied by Paavo Järvi and the excellent Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. The finale, in particular, is a scorcher, in which daredevil tempos still permit a welcome fund of unusually audible orchestral detail. As an encore, Isserlis tosses in the March from Prokofiev’s Music for Children, arranged by Gregor Piatigorsky.

Hyperion’s engineering is excellent. Isserlis is up front, clearly, but never at the expense of the orchestra. As I said at the start, the Prokofiev is a major work, and this ia a major recording of it. Essential for collectors.

– ClassicsToday (David Hurwitz) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Cello in E minor, Op. 58 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Steven Isserlis (Cello)
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933-1938; USSR 
Venue:  Alte Oper Frankfurt 
Length: 17 Minutes 24 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Cello no 1 in E flat major, Op. 107 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Steven Isserlis (Cello)
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; USSR 
Venue:  Frankfurt Radio Hall 
Length: 26 Minutes 35 Secs. 
3.
Music for Children, Op. 65: March (No. 10) by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Steven Isserlis (Cello)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1935 
Venue:  Alte Oper Frankfurt 
Length: 1 Minutes 34 Secs. 

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