Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cello Concerto No. 1
Gavriel Lipkind (vc); Wojciech Rodek, cond; Sinfonia Varsovia
LIPKIND PRODUCTIONS H02 (32:16)
The Shostakovich First Cello Concerto is, of course, practically synonymous with Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist for whom the piece was written and who recorded it a number of times. But Rostropovich isn’t the only competitor Lipkind is up against in this very popular score. A number of recent recordings of the work by Lynn Harrell, Daniel Müller-Schott, Han-Na Chang, and
Jamie Walton have offered up extremely impressive accounts that pose serious challenges even to the venerable Rostropovich.
Without hesitation, Lipkind can be added to this list. To begin with, the recording itself is so lifelike and has such presence that it gave me a start when it first began to play. It felt like both Lipkind and the orchestra were right there in the room with me. Once I adjusted to that very realistic and vivid aural perspective, I could only marvel at how incisive and insightful was Lipkind’s reading. His Saint-Saëns and Schumann are good, but his Shostakovich is both technically stunning and emotionally shattering.
Lipkind is of Russian parentage, and it may be the Russian blood in his veins that puts him in touch with Shostakovich in such a personal way. The passage toward the end of the second movement, where the cello’s artificial harmonics are answered by the celesta, will make you want to search your room for creepy, crawly things before going to bed. You may even decide to sleep with the lights on, armed with a can of Raid. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.
Once again, as noted in reviews of Lipkind’s Saint-Saëns and Schumann discs, cellist and conductor take a chamber-music approach to the score, which allows not only for an intimacy in the dialogue between soloist and orchestra, but also for the many magical touches of Shostakovich’s scoring to emerge with unusual clarity. With respect to its instrumentation, Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto really is a kind of chamber concerto. The presence of piccolo and celesta give the score a kind of delicacy, and the absence of a strong brass contingent—there is only one horn and no trumpets or trombones—lends the score a degree of transparency.
Also, something I failed to mention in either the Saint-Saëns or Schumann reviews is that Lipkind’s cello is somewhat of a mystery, or so it seems. Known as “The Zihrhonheimer cello,” the instrument bears a label with a date of 1702 from the shop of Bolognese maker Aloysius Michael Garani (c.1680–1743), but experts have estimated the actual date of construction to be between 1670 and 1680. So, unless they’re wrong, either Garani is not the maker or he made the instrument before he was conceived or while still in the womb. Fascinating. Soundwise, whoever the maker was, the tonal characteristics of Lipkind’s cello are a perfect match for the sometimes gruff, sometimes spectral, sometimes sarcastically biting, and sometimes ethereally beautiful sonorities Shostakovich calls for.
I won’t be throwing away any of the above-mentioned versions, because Shostakovich’s E?-Major Concerto is a work that both welcomes and challenges all comers. But Lipkind’s contribution to an already impressive list of artists is a distinctive and distinguished one. Urgently recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Cello no 1 in E flat major, Op. 107 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Gavriel Lipkind (Cello)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1959; USSR
Venue: Witold Lutoslawski Concert Hall of the P
Length: 32 Minutes 14 Secs.
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