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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D821(1824) [18:05]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99 (1886) [25:22]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Cello Sonata in D minor, L.135 (1915) [9:43]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Cello Sonata in D minor, Op.40 (1934) [22:50]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Andaluza (Danza española, Op. 37 No. 5) (arr. Casals) [3:48]
Daniil Shafran (cello)
Walter Bohle (piano)
rec. 6 November 1959, Karlsruhe, Sendesaal, South German Radio
MELOCLASSIC MC3012 [79:50]

This single recital was given by Daniil Shafran and Walter Bohle in Karlsruhe in November 1959. Shafran was inimitable even when exhausting to listen to – I remember an Aulos inscription of the Dvořák Concerto that I barely managed to get through in one piece – but he was an artist of single-minded concentration and wholly devoid of show. The recital visits pieces central to his repertoire – Schubert, Brahms and Shostakovich principally.

In the Arpeggione Sonata he dispenses with the first movement exposition repeat, which was something he was not to do in his studio recording in 1970, and phrases with inimitable warmth adding a degree of ‘pathetic’ expression as the opening movement draws to its close. The Adagio is full of characteristically romanticised colour and expressivity, with a full complement of slides, too. There’s a little textual snip in the finale too - were they shoehorning this to meet the radio schedule, I wonder - but the playing is fanciful and light on its feet. Brahms’s F major sonata is far more vivace in Karlsruhe than it was to become two decades later when he set down a recording with Felix Gottlieb. Later on a kind of moderato gauze descended over his Brahms but here his wide and variegated vibrato is very different and this, allied to near-constant fluctuations of vibrato speed, breadth and colour keep the ear constantly intrigued. The serious introspection cultivated in the slow movement is accompanied by withdrawn dynamics. It’s not simply that he’s much faster here than he was later – contrasts are more graphic, articulation is more incisive, and the character of the music is wholly different.

The differences between the Debussy with Bohle in 1959 and Ginzburg in 1970 are not so extreme, though the earlier performance is perhaps inevitably the fleeter. Constant variance of dynamics and vibrato tend to sap the music of its natural Gallic characterisation – see that lodestar interpreter Maurice Maréchal, for instance – but Shafran is brilliantly up to tempo here. His intensity will not be to all tastes but it is undeniably exciting. The same concert also included his famous interpretation of Shostakovich’s D minor sonata, which is sculpted with great power and concentration. He had recorded this with the composer in 1946 but any subsequent performances, given the changing nature of his pianist collaborators, brought out different aspects. The same is true here – not least in the really expansively played Largo, aided to no small degree by Bohle. After this the Granados bonbon comes as a relief.

The fruits of this single recital, heard in fine recorded sound, are augmented by the fine booklet documentation.

Jonathan Woolf



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