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Leningrad Cello Concertos
Boris TISHCHENKO (1939-2010)
Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 23 (1963) [26:20]
Vladimir TZITOVICH (1931-2012)
Cello Concerto (1981) [20:25]
Yuri FALIK (1936-2009)
Concerto della passione (1988) [31:53]
Mstislav Rostropovich, Georgy Ginovker, Natalia Gutman (cello)
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Igor Blazhkov, Pavel Bubelnikov, Alexander Dmitriev
rec. 1966-1990, Leningrad

In the abstruse yet gilded worlds mapped by Northern Flowers there are, in the case of this 80-minute CD, two touches of the familiar. The first comes with the Falik which first peeked out on an all-Falik CD from the same label. The second can be put down to the masterly Boris Tishchenko concerto from the first half of the 1960s, which is the oldest work here. Rostropovich’s recording of it (in performing versions) has appeared on Warner, Northern Flowers (with other orchestral pieces by Tishchenko), Brilliant Classics, Chandos and Melodiya.

The disc presents three Russian cellists in descending order of celebrity: Rostropovich; Natalia Gutman and Georgy Ginovker. I had not encountered Ginovker before but rather like an equally rarely met figure, Mikhail Khomitser, he is a force to be reckoned with.

The Tischenko is “Concerto for cello and 17 wind instruments and percussion”. The full complement of the original is nine woodwind, eight brass, percussion and harmonium. It starts with a lengthy and virtuoso solo that combines an inwardness with expressive riches. From that point of view it reminded me of the Kodály solo cello sonata a work recorded most resoundingly, on Saga, by János Starker. The work is in a single movement and a single track. Gradually the ‘orchestral’ instruments, most beautifully, enter and entwine, yet they do so with great gravity (7:01). A series of sharp and thudding slashes are heard at 10:05 and later recur at 18:30 against the backdrop of clamant interventions by the percussion. The soloist’s alternately harrying and mulling legato continues indefatigable throughout. A fading into discontent; nothing emollient here. The concerto approaches half an hour in duration. It is also available in a version made by Shostakovich in 1969 where the cello is accompanied by full orchestra rather than this more modest yet tangy band.

Fast forward two decades and we meet Vladimir Tzitovich’s Concerto which was written in his early fifties. It’s in two movements - well three, with the last two compacted into one span (as also applies to the Falik) - and here one track. A product of, and teacher at, the Leningrad Conservatory his concerto is one of several. There are also four symphonies, one of which is on another Northern Flowers disc. The music is eloquent and most communicatively put across by cellist Georgy Ginovker. I think it’s fair to say the style becomes more terse, slightly discordant and even militaristic as the score progresses. It’s certainly not going to fall in line as evidence of a recurrence of romanticism. If anyone, Tzitovich’s music, as heard here, has some passing resemblance to that of William Schuman in his A Song of Orpheus. The piece ends in a curling surge of sound. It’s quicker than what has gone before but still not a Presto (which is how it is denoted in the tracklist) as many of us would think of the word in music

One-time principal cellist of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, Ginovker has been a pupil of Rostropovich. He has held various academic posts in Russia. From 1992 he moved to New York where he is principal of various orchestras in the New York Metro.

Falik, a practising cellist, was a Rostropovich pupil. His teacher was Boris Arapov whose music I hope we shall hear before too long. The Cello Concerto entitled Concerto della passione, at roughly 30 minutes, here receives a tense reading and this aspect is not betrayed by the recording which was made ‘in concert’. You must brace yourself a little to hear the usual audio detritus associated with an audience. Natalia Gutman proves a dignified and reflective soloist in a work that seems to concern itself with an inner world. The microphone array places her at a natural distance from the orchestra. The Concerto’s two very substantial movements are allocated a track each; on the earlier issue from this label it was rendered in one track. This is an improvement in a work that impressed me greatly.

The well nourished, English-only, liner-notes are, as usual for this label, unattributed beyond a ‘Northern Flowers’ sign-off. They are rendered only in English by Sergey Suslov.

This disc is an opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and encounter things rich and strange in the entirely sympathetic and skilled hands of three extremely fine cellists.

Rob Barnett

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