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Prokofiev: Cello Concerto, Symphony-concerto / Andrew Litton, Alban Gerhardt

Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67705   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo1 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PROKOFIEV Cello Concerto . Symphony-Concerto Alban Gerhardt (vc); Andrew Litton, cond; Bergen PO HYPERION 67705 (73:06)

This is the obvious coupling, and no one else has it: the same musical material in two disguises, one from the later 1930s and then the early 1950s. Starker (EMI reissued by ArkivMusic) and Ivashkin (Chandos) are impressive in the underrated but hard to assimilate Concerto. Litton and Gerhardt make an even stronger case for it, and Hyperion offers a good Read more balance between soloist and orchestra, who are in real partnership. Gerhardt is especially fine in lower dynamics, and I like the way he does not show off his tone or technique; he just gets on with it, and serves the music with passion and subtlety. You can’t do better in the Concerto, which here runs about the same time as the Symphony-Concerto , and actually feels longer and more varied. I love this piece, in some ways the end of the road for the composer’s free orchestral expressive imagination. If only he had not gone home.

Prokofiev’s late reworking, done for Rostropovich, is more maligned than neglected, and that has not stopped cellists from recording it, so competition is very hot. André Navarra on Supraphon is my favorite, but with the excellent Chang available extremely cheaply, and with Rostropovich, Shafran, and Ma in the lists, we’re already spoiled for choice. Litton and Gerhardt score again with their close interaction and good balance. They also keep the piece moving, and no way could it be called “sprawling” on this evidence. Gerhardt’s rubato is confident, his expressive range wide, but the orchestral soloists match him all the way. The direct approach doesn’t exclude feeling (try the big cadenza in the middle movement), but there are more epic and extreme qualities in Slava’s readings, and Navarra’s tone is highly suited to this work. That would not stop me from buying the Hyperion, though. This is some of the most musically intelligent cello playing I’ve heard in years, right up to the terrifying coda.

If you’ve waited for a really good recording of the Prokofiev Cello Concerto, then here it is at last, with a vigorous and fresh take on the Symphony-Concerto thrown in.

FANFARE: Paul Ingram
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Cello in E minor, Op. 58 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt (Cello)
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933-1938; USSR 
Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 125 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt (Cello)
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951/1952; USSR 

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