Natalie Clein / Ilan Volkov / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Bloch: Voice in the Wilderness; Schlomo; From Jewish Life; Bruch: Kol Nidrei

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Schelomo, by Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch, and Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei, in which the cello takes the role of a Jewish cantor, were standards among the great Jewish cellists who fled Europe in the middle 20th century, and the two works were often enough paired as they are here. They're somewhat less often heard these days, and it's hard to beat the passion of someone like Mstislav Rostropovich in this music. British cellist Natalie Clein, with her rather quick, muscular reading of Schelomo, doesn't quite do it, although everything here is more than listenable. The main attraction of this Hyperion-label release is actually the side attractions: the lovely arrangement by Christopher Palmer of the cello-and-piano work From Jewish Life (1924), and above all the "symphonic poem with cello obbligato" Voice in the Wilderness, which dates from the late 1930s. This work, despite its biblical-sounding title, has no direct programmatic references. The title was suggested by a friend of the composer who correctly perceived its links to the serious, prophetic language of Schelomo. But it's a different kind of work, more episodic, a bit more touched by neo-classicism in its language. It fits Clein's direct style very well, and it's a pleasure to hear next to the more famous works on the album. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov provides competent support, and the engineering, from City Halls Glasgow (a concert hall), is fine. Recommended for those in search of sonically updated takes on the two big classics, and especially for those interested in the underrated Bloch.

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