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Tatjana Vassilieva (cello)
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Sonata for solo cello Op.8 (1915) [30.34]
Eugčne YSAźE (1858-1931)
Sonata for solo cello Op.28 (1924) [13.21]
Alexandre TCHÉREPNINE (1899-1977)
Suite for solo cello Op.76 [6.48]
Gaspar CASSADÓ (1897-1966)
Suite for solo cello (1926) [15.18]
Tatjana Vassilieva (cello)
Recorded Temple de Bons Secours, Paris, January 2005
ACCORD 476 7191 [66.10]


Two things strike one immediately: the exceptionally up-front and raw recording quality with its admixture of echo and the frequently violent and resinous attack of cellist Tatjana Vassilieva. It makes for very tiring listening. I’d be tempted to blame much of this on the studio set-up were it not for the fact that she seems consistently to favour outsize and personality-rich attacks, ones that will cause your blood pressure to rise with immediate effect in the Kodaly. She takes a broadly measured view of the Adagio though the outer movements are pretty much up to tempo. Tonally her palette is not as wide as it could be and her gutsy bowing takes a bit of getting used to – I wish for instance that she’d been rhythmically tauter in the opening movement and had shaped her phrases to more immediately arresting effect, as Starker did in his classic EMI recording of 1957. More overt in the slow movement and with cavernous gestures and tone – with dynamics to match – she tends to rely more on bow weight than bow colour. There’s some ambient noise hereabouts and there seems to be something wrong with the master tape in my copy at about 0.35 into this movement.

The Cassadó Suite is receiving a pleasing number of recordings these days – Jamie Walton has recently set down his version on Somm for instance – and its vivacity certainly repays questing cellists. Gutsy and volatile Vassilieva couldn’t be more different from Walton – he’s very much more equable temperamentally, his tonal resources are deployed with a certain degree of reticence; if Walton wields elegant Sheffield steel she, by contrast, drives through the Suite with an electric carver. I find her kind of playing remorseless with too much bow pressure and rather hysterical approach, treating the Intermezzo and Danza finale as a quasi lamento for instance. Still, to others it may certainly be different – and exciting, if they can cope with the recording, which places her under your chin.

It’s good to hear the Ysa˙e and Tchérepnine; the former confirms to her playing elsewhere and could have done with a dose of restraint and the latter, seldom recorded, seems to suit her very much better. Whether the Japanese cast of this work encourages her to explore more lyric playing it has paid dividends in the inner movements. I still recoil from her bowing in the opening movement however.

In the circumstances, whilst I admire the commitment and vivacity and also the adventurousness of some of the programming, I can’t really recommend the disc – too intense, not enough light and shade, vicious bowing attacks and a ruinous acoustic.

Jonathan Woolf








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