Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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London N3 3SN
Phone 0208 346 1480
Fax 0208 349 4339
www.celloclassics.com
info@celloclassics.com

Daniil SHAFRAN (1923-1997) - Russian Soul
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra Op. 125 (1952) [35.15]
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)

Cello Concerto No. 2 (1964) [27.55]
Sulkhan TSINTSADZE (1925-1992)

Five Pieces on Folk Themes for cello and piano (1952) [14.27]
Daniil Shafran (cello)
rec. 1961, USSR State SO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, live, Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory (Prokofiev); 1967, Leningrad PO/composer (Kabalevsky); 1957, Nina Musinyan (piano)
CELLO CLASSICS CC1008 [77.55]



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Quite apart from being a miniature encyclopedia entry on Shafran this is one of those discs that stays in the memory. It is one that you will want to return to for Shafran's urgency, desperation, fantasy and emotional range - never mind his extraordinary technical accomplishments.

The whole production is to the great credit of Sebastian Comberti's Cello Classics label. There are no fewer than nine excellent portraits of Shafran in the booklet plus a scene-setting biographical essay, full notes on each piece including a scan of the autograph dedication to Shafran on the score of the Kabalevsky concerto … and Stephen Isserlis's unmissable personal tribute. To cap it all the choice of repertoire evades the obvious and embraces the delightfully and sometimes scarringly unfamiliar.

The Prokofiev is a reworking of his Cello Concerto in E minor from 1939. When premiered in February 1952 by Rostropovich with the Moscow Youth Orchestra conducted by Sviatoslav Richter (his first and only appearance as a conductor) it was called 'Cello Concerto No. 2'. This work still strikes one overall as a piece in transition not quite having found its butterfly form. Nevertheless it is alive with Prokofiev's razor-sharp fantasy and romantic edginess. As an illustration try the andante con moto at 5.12 where the composer conjures a very unusual sense of exhausted collapse into strange harmonies and textures.

Stanley Dale Krebs, the first full-time American student at the Moscow Conservatoire, wrote of Kabalevsky possessing two of the three qualities of a fine composer (superb technique and insight into immediate popular success) but lacking the third (a personal depth that must sometimes defy the other two qualities). Shafran's 1954 recording of the First Concerto had given it currency across the USSR and beyond. The composer dedicated his Second Cello Concerto to Shafran. It is a work that has undeniable depth defying Krebs' condemnation. The mood is intensified by the composer having opted for a slow-fast-slow configuration - just as his teacher Miaskovsky had two decades previously in his own cello concerto.

The five skilfully coloured Georgian folk sketches by Tsintadze subtly usher central Asian material into the Soviet concert tradition. These miniatures will appeal to anyone who has a taste for the symphonies of Terteryan or Hovhaness. I wonder if Shafran included any of these among the nine encores he played at that famous Wigmore Hall concert back in the 1990s. We can only hope that young cellists intent on shaking people from the complacent repertoire-round will think of introducing these pieces into recitals and competitions.

I suspect, going by the very low level surface noise, that these tracks came from Steven Isserlis's collection of MK and Melodiya LPs. There are quite a few of us out here who would welcome a second and third Shafran disc if Cello Classics can find enough unfamiliar Russian material with which to fill them. Place this beside EMI's Rostropovich 'Russian Years' box and do not forget that Rostropovich was not the only star in the USSR's firmament. Shafran and 'Slava' shared several Soviet prizes. The accident of temperament, politics and promotional drive separated Shafran from the international reputation enjoyed by Rostropovich. When you hear this disc you will know what I mean. A treasure and a pleasure.

Rob Barnett



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