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Seen and Heard Recital Review


Shostakovich, Prokofiev Pieter Wispelwey (cello); Dejan Lazic (piano), Wigmore Hall, 1 pm, Monday, January 17th, 2005 (CC)

Riding high on his new five-year residency with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (starting with the Elgar Concerto on February 16th), Pieter Wispelwey played two of the most demanding cello sonatas from the Russian repertoire to a large Wigmore audience. Before the concert we were greeted by two announcements. First, a reversal of the programme (Shostakovich Op. 40 first, then Prokofiev Op. 119); next, we would be denied the chance to hear his 'new' 1760 Guadagnini cello (maybe in February …) Things had to get better, surely?

That Wigmore acoustic seemed about to claim another victim at the beginning of the Shostakovich, though, with its easeful lyricism threatened by intermittent muddying of textures. Throughout, it was the wistful passages that came across most successfully. Pianist Dejan Lazic impressed in the first movement with his warm sound and his attentiveness to his partner, yet in the manic revealed another side, no less appealing, to this player. Lazic in fact seemed to move closer to Shostakovich than did Wispelwey's rather Europeanised view, exemplified perfectly by Wispelwey's way with the more desolate lines. The finale brought with it a sense of Shostakovichian fun, but fun that did not dare to turn into outrageous slapstick.

The positive side is that one was never just aware of Wispelwey's virtuosity. This predominantly lyrical take, impressive in parts, nevertheless left the nagging feeling that we had only been told half the story.

Shostakovich's Sonata was composed in 1934 and so is a youthful work. Prokofiev's great C major Sonata, however, dates from 1949. We are very definitely in late Prokofiev mode (he died in 1953), as evinced by the dark, sombre, low opening theme (it would be easy to imagine this more lyrically presented than was Wispelwey's wont). Implied violence here became extrovert Prokofiev dynamism (a valid interpretative standpoint, if one that is not so immediately exciting). Again, it was the quieter, more reflective sections that made for the more compelling listening. Spiky wit and teased-out melodies characterised the good-humoured Scherzo. A pity the climax to the finale (indeed, to the work as a whole) did not carry full weight, perhaps because of the pair's over-emphasis on one side of the composer's coin.

Intermittently stimulating, then, but ultimately rather disappointing, half-interpretations.

Colin Clarke


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Prokofiev: Ivashkin and Lazareva Chandos CHAN 10045

Shostakovitch (with Prokofiev and Britten): Wispelwey, Lazic
Channel Classics CCS20098
Rostropovich/Britten (now discontinued): Decca 466 823-2
(Arr. viola) Bartholdy & Drake. Naxos 8.557321

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