Despite proclaiming itself as being "renowned for the audiophile quality of its recordings," this album gets off to a very shaky start with an unattractive sound quality. The cello and piano simply sound like they're in a different room than the microphone -- with the door closed.
The performances themselves, however, are more acceptable. Cellist Edgar Lustgarten and pianist John Williams (yes, the famed film composer) offer a decent but too-safe performance of Prokofiev's Cello Sonata. The second theme of the first movement is quite slow and rigid, and even the sassy second-movement scherzo is a little banal and predictable. For pure excitement and joyous playing, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax simply cannot be beat for this sonata. The Ward-Steinman Duo for Cello & Piano (a reworking of the cello concerto) is quite a different story. Lustgarten consulted with Ward-Steinman on the composition of the piece and in fact premiered the concerto. His familiarity with the work manifests itself with much more passionate and risk-filled playing than was heard in the Prokofiev. His tone (as far as can be ascertained given the poor recording quality) is quite pleasing, and his intonation is exactly what would be expected from an orchestra musician: flawless. The composition itself plays to all of the cello's strengths: lyricism, extensive range, and broad palate of tone colors.