A well played disc – but a rather
maudlin one, programmatically. The Elegiac-Hebraic
nature of the compositions means that
it’s inadvisable to play this hour’s
worth successively; some judicious sampling
alleviated by some scherzo reprieve
is, I think, the best way to approach
From Jewish Life.
Which is not to criticise
the performers or the performances.
Jonathan Aasgaard is a highly accomplished,
indeed aristocratic player who, though
given to anticipatory sniffs, reveals
an assured technique, tonal colour and
a real instinct for the melancholy vested
in these works. He also shows that he
is no mean arranger in his Prayer
adaptation. In the biggest work here,
the evergreen Schelomo, he proves much
more equable an orator than the more
frenetic, immediate and intense Feuermann
in his classic reading with Barzin.
Aasgaard is careful not to reveal all
his secrets too soon, something in which
Schwarz joins him; they don’t come out
guns blazing, preferring incrementally
to ratchet the tension, to allow its
evocative allure to work like a saline
drip, not a hypodermic syringe. For
hypo lovers you have Feuermann or, less
so, the Piatigorsky from days of yore.
Don’t be misled by the slightly trudging-grudging
quality of the earlier part of the performance;
the reading never really blazes but
it does have its own truthfulness.
Prayer – from
the suite by Bloch that gives its name
to the disc – is heard in the cellist’s
own arrangement for cello and string
orchestra and a splendid one it is.
Only a louse would fail to be moved
by Prayer and this performance,
newly garbed, is warmly sympathetic.
David Diamond, who died in 2005, is
represented by Kaddish. It’s
a reflective piece in which the cello
adopts the cantorial role and the orchestra
responds to it; that said there is an
increasingly passionate surge from the
orchestra, giving the music a binary
force and wholeness. The conductor Gerard
Schwarz contributes a touching In
Memoriam for the Russian-born cellist
David Tonkonogui, who died young, and
who taught Schwarz’s son. It is, in
effect, a tripartite portrait that stresses
the melancholy of things but not at
the expense of more enduringly lyric
qualities. Finally there is Bruch’s
Kol Nidrei, which is phrased
with a similar kind of restraint that
permeated the Bloch.
With the proviso that
the programme hardly makes for especially
natural sequential listening, this well-recorded
selection brings gravitas and eloquence
in performances of stature.