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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


RECORDING OF THE MONTH

Nina KOTOVA (1969 - )
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2000) [29.28]
Ernest BLOCH (1880 -1959)

Schelomo, Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra (1933) [20.22]
Jewish Life: #1, Prayer (1924) [4.05]
Max BRUCH (1838 - 1920)

Kol Nidrei, Op 47 (1881) [9.46]
Nina Kotova, cello
The Philharmonia of Russia/Constantine Orbelian
Recorded in the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow, Russia, December 9, 2001
Notes in English
DELOS DE 3305 [63.43]
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.

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Comparison recordings:

Bloch: Schelomo, George Neikrug, Stokowski, Symphony of the Air, EMI
Bruch: Kol Nidrei, Pablo Casals, cello, Nicolai Mednikoff, piano, Naxos

Although from Clara Schumann forward we were used to the idea that great pianists could also be attractive women, when I was a boy all the great violinists were ugly old men with beautiful souls. Now, it seems most of the world’s great violinists are beautiful girls. Looks like the same thing might happen with cellists. Nina Kotova is the most beautiful cellist in the world, and, simply, she is also the finest cellist I have ever heard. She has the rich depth of tone of Starker, the intelligence and variety of phrasing of Rostropovich, and, even when compared to Casals, does not come up short on power of expression. She achieves cantorial sadness and ecstasy in Schelomo and the Prayer equal to anything I have heard in any other recording. Although Orbelian is not quite a Stokowski, the latter is hindered by dated sound. Kotova has much richer tone than Neikrug, and so, yes, this is the best Schelomo I’ve ever heard (track 2). Of course, Dolby 5.1 playback certainly helps; while there is no mention of Dolby on the label, in fact the recording will decode nicely on your surround sound player. There is mention in the notes of parallel release of this program on SACD, but for a CD this sound is of demonstration quality throughout.

The picture on the back of the jewelcase would suggest that when Kotova was a little girl she wanted to grow up to be Princess Turandot, or maybe a Russian Princess whose favourite Saturday night pastime was flogging her serfs. In her picture on the disk itself, she seems to be smiling over a private joke. On the cover of the program booklet, she looks more like someone it would be worth getting to know, albeit that might be difficult. Only on the back of the booklet do you get a nice smile, but by now you realise that a smile like this will have to be earned. My first reaction to her Cello Concerto was negative; it seemed like just a bunch of irrelevant carryings on. The second hearing was much more positive as I realised that while the overall large structure of the work may be thin, the small scale drama is interesting enough to carry. On my third hearing I could say I started to enjoy myself (tracks 3 and 4). She knows what she wants to say, and is confident enough not to worry if she needs to make a rough sound to say it. So do not be put off by the princess; when you get to know her, she can be fun.

And make space next to your Rostropovich and Casals disks.

Paul Shoemaker


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CDTnº1 - E. BLOCH
Prayer, From Jewish Life
CDTnº2 - E. BLOCH
Schelomo - Hebraic Rhapsody
CDTnº3 - N. KOTOVA
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
CDTnº4 - N. KOTOVA
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
CDTnº5 - N. KOTOVA
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
CDTnº6 - M. BRUCH
Kol Nidrei - Adagio for Cello and Orchestra, Op.47




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