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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Cello Sonata, Op. 119 (1949) [25’58]. Ballade in C minor, Op. 15 (1912) [13’12]. Cinderella, Op. 97bis - Adagio in C. (1944) [4’31]. Cello Concertino, Op. 132 (1952) – Andante in G minor [5’57]. Chout, Op. 21 (1915) – fragments (arr. Sapozhnikov) [7’23]. Solo Cello Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 134 (1952, completed Blok) [12’23].
Alaxander Ivashkin (cello)
Tatyana Lazareva (piano).
Rec. Maly Hall, Moscow Conservatory, on August 28th-September 1st, 2002. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10045 [67’40]


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Alexander Ivashkin has made a number of notable recordings for Chandos, of composers such as Schnittke, Tcherepnin, Gubaidulina and Roslavets as well as Prokofiev. He is a naturally lyrical player, his beautiful, burnished sound being particularly apt for Prokofiev’s aching melodies (he plays a 1710 Guarneri). It would appear that this is Ivashkin’s second traversal through Prokofiev’s cello music, for there is a recital on Ondine CDMANU1517 with pianist Tamas Vesmas.

The programme starts with the longest (and possibly most popular) piece, the 1949 Sonata for Cello and Piano. Of course Rostropovich is duty bound to appear in the catalogues (as do many others), but Ivashkin manages to stamp his own personality on the piece. The sonorous solo opening bodes well, as well it might: and there is much to admire to come. Ivashkin’s most impressive trait is his innate lyricism (the episodes in the second movement, Moderato, sing for all they are worth), and it is much exercised in this piece. The devilish technical difficulties are subsumed in the overall sweep of the performance (the climax of the first movement consists of manic cello arpeggios against ecstatic piano chords: ten minutes in). The young pianist, Tatyana Lazareva (born 1977) seems supremely talented in her role as accompanist, sensitive and evocative when required; strong and forthright when called for, also.

One does not need perfect pitch to realise that the ensuing Ballade is in C minor: all the anger and anguish of that key is contained in the piano’s opening dark and strong chordal flourish. The active, rhythmic elements come alive here but the overall impression is that one can simply immerse oneself and get lost in this beautiful outpouring.

The other hefty work Ivashkin presents is the Sonata for Solo Cello, which ends the disc. It is the last piece that Prokofiev began in 1952, and he did not live to complete it, leaving only sketches for a first movement. This completion, by Vladimir Blok, was first performed in 1972 by Natalia Gutman. It is a haunting piece which suites Ivashkin’s expressive bent perfectly (but he captures the spirit of the more capricious sections expertly, too). This is a gripping twelve minutes, and a wonderfully thought-provoking close to the disc that will linger long in this listener’s memory.

The three items that precede the Solo Cello Sonata are gems. The Adagio from Cinderella is eloquence personified. Its gentle and rarefied world coming through not only because of Ivashkin’s phrasing but also because of Lazareva’s tonal variety. There is some superb stopping, and the climax is highly expressive and passionate (as befits the climax of the ballet). The Andante from the Cello Concertino is all but operatic. Ample contrast is afforded by the five excerpts from the ballet Chout, which contain much of the characteristic, spiky and (in the third) cheeky Prokofiev.

It is, indeed, difficult to find fault with this disc on any level. The recording is exemplary. A truly superb achievement from all concerned.

Colin Clarke



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