Guild returns to the catalogue these recordings from thirty years ago,
first issued by Unicorn. In their day the disc faced serious enough
competition from the likes of Tortelier and Ciccolini, Fournier and
Fonda, and Shafran and Pecherskaya. Now the competition is wider if
not necessarily deeper than the above trio.
The better performance is that of the Shostakovich. George and Portugheis
are good chamber players and bring an impressive sense of direction
and meaning to the work. The cellist’s tone is lean with an attractive
core to her sound; with Portugheis, who plays impressively throughout,
they bring to the Shostakovich sympathetic understanding of true chamber
proportions. In the Rachmaninov I have some reservations. One feels
here that the pianist is more inclined to linger over Rachmaninov’s
melodies than is the cellist; there is something of a lack of force
and tonal variety to her playing here as well which acts to blunt the
romantic impress of the music, especially in the andante which is fleet
and unsentimental, played as a song without words, and whilst not unmoving
still leaving things unsaid. Their commitment to architectural cogency
is admirable but comes at a price.
The recorded sound has come up well and naturally. There are plenty
of star name performers of these sonatas – if you can find it this coupling
was available on Revelation RV10017 with Shafran and Jacov Flyer – but
if your preference is for intimacy, tonal reticence and chamber compatibility
then this disc has its rewards.