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Victor Simon (b.1930) - cellist
Boris TCHAIKOVSKY (1925-1996)

Cello Concerto [38.09]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)

Cello Concerto in B flat major [22.30]
Piotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Nocturne; Pezzo Capriccioso [4.44; 6.47]
Victor Simon (cello)
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Vladimir Fedoseyev
rec. Mar 1983 (Boccherini), Jan 1987 (Piotr Tchaikovsky), Feb 1978 (Boris Tchaikovsky) ADD
Recordings from Russian State Foundation of Radio and Television
RELIEF CR991065 [72.36]

This disc was released to as an affectionate tribute from Vladimir Fedoseyev to mark the seventieth birthday of the cellist, Victor Simon.

Simon has been Principal Cello of what is now known as the ‘Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio’ since 1961. The orchestra was previously the Moscow Radio Symphony, an orchestra with an exemplary pedigree on record which includes a matchless 1960s Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances (awaiting its first successful transfer to CD - although I have the highest hopes that the new CDK version will meet the challenge).

Simon's bel canto tone well matches the Boccherini which is intensely romantic as if Mozart and Bach had been 're-engineered' by Pyotr Tchaikovsky in his most lyrical phase as in the Souvenirs de Florence. Simon is here more Maurice Gendron than Rostropovich. He is, rather like the very different Daniil Shafran, yet another Russian talent eclipsed by Rostropovich. The two Tchaikovsky morcels are grist to Simon's songful 'mill' - entrancing in the cello-flute duo at 3.23 in the Nocturne and with superbly differentiated dynamics in the Pezzo (e.g. at 4.23).

The Boris Tchaikovsky concerto is the most substantial work on the disc. It represents a major change of gear from its travelling companions. The composer is happy to deploy dissonance but no more so than in say Britten's Cello Symphony or Schuman's In Praise of Shahn or Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto. The soundworld of this gravely introspective and sometimes nightmarish work is sharply focused, clear and ingeniously calculated. The lyrical element is certainly there but laced with vitriol. After the long and deeply serious opening andante, lasting almost as long as the other three movements put together, comes a circus style allegretto with much bitter-black brass work. The contrast reminded me a little of the brutal transition from the long and unflinching largo of Shostakovich's Sixth Symphony to the knockabout second movement. Tchaikovsky's writing is notable for astonishingly vivid echo effects from the solo line to the orchestra with the orchestral ‘shadow’ often emulating the sound of the balalaika. After a while you notice the brilliance of Tchaikovsky's orchestration with its emphasis on chamber delicacy and microcosms. The final moderato juxtaposes fragments of bourgeois dance references with caustic commentary in the manner of Weill and Eisler. Simon's accent is throaty and catarrhal - well suited to this nicotine-stained music.

This disc has a magnetic pull for cello-fans but a much wider audience will be grateful for the grit and smoke, song and lamentation of the Tchaikovsky concerto. Defiant and distinctive, this work will find ready friends among those who already rate Kabalevsky's Second Concerto or the Sallinen and Kokkonen concertos.

Rob Barnett

Boris Tchaikovsky website:

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