> Shostakovich, Schnittke Gutman LCL202 [JW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Cello Concertos Nos 1 and 2
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Dialogue for Cello and Seven Instruments
Natalia Gutman, cello
USSR Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kyril Kondrashin (Concerto No 1) Recorded 21 June 1976
Moscow State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dmitri Kitajenko (Concerto No 2) Recorded 11 November 1986
Gnessin Chamber Orchestra conducted by Yuri Nikolaevsky (Schnittke) Recorded 2 January 1982


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Live Classics are now embarking on a Natalia Gutman series, though many of her performances with her late husband, Oleg Kagan, have been issued through the 1990s in their Kagan Edition. Part of a charmed circle of like-minded musicians devoted to contemporary, classical and romantic performances, Gutman is as much at home in Schubert as she is in Shostakovich. She has in fact recorded the concertos commercially with the RPO conducted by Yuri Temirkanov (RCA RD 87918) but these Live Classics performances predate the RCA by some years; the first concerto dates from 1976 and the second from a decade later – both were taped in Moscow.

Gutman shares with Kagan significant profiles – expressivity without great opulence of sound projection, a concern for clarity of articulation and a general avoidance of any coarsening of tone, not least in fast passagework. If this is indicative of a certain reserve then it’s a highly developed and cultivated one, deeply considered, which brings many rewards. Kagan studied with Oistrakh and Gutman with Rostropovich and her recording will inevitably provoke comparison with his. There are – or were – at least five Rostropovich traversals of the first concerto and three of the second; the dizzying appearance of his broadcast and concert legacy means that as soon as one performance departs the catalogue another magically appears. There are significant differences of approach, both architectural and tonal, between the two performers and Gutman’s are well able to stand on their own terms. The flattened aural perspective of the 1976 First Concerto doesn’t flatter the performers – it’s close-up and uningratiating. Nevertheless Kondrashin was seldom capable of dull conducting and encourages sectional playing of vehemence and clarity. Gutman is never as feelingly dramatic as is Heinrich Schiff in his reading on Phillips with Maxim Shostakovich conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (412 526-2PH) and her tonal resources do not stretch to his. Tonal gradations are significantly more powerfully realised in Schiff’s performance. Gutman’s though is a telling reading bettered, I think, by her way with No. 2, which also may be the greater work. In its biting introspection and in the dark cadenza of the first movement her sense of design and her conception of the architecture of the work are never in doubt. Kitajenko brings out the savagely whooping horns in the second Allegretto with real aplomb; Gutman’s relatively clear-eyed playing should not be mistaken for coldness – it is a different means to an end, an individual mediation through the density of Shostakovich’s writing and admirable in its way. To complete the disc we have Schnittke’s Dialogue - an arch from introspection to snarling and fractious chamber orchestra interjections and through them to a degree of not unclouded resolution.

Jonathan Woolf

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