Raphael Wallfisch / Martyn Brabbins / John York

Shostakovich: Complete Works for Cello

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AllMusic Review by James Leonard

What, exactly, do Shostakovich's complete cello works consist of? There's the sonata from 1934 and the two concertos from 1959 and 1966, of course. But should one count the single-movement Moderato presumably composed in 1934 but only discovered posthumously half a century later? And should one count a transcription of the viola sonata from 1975 done by cellist Daniel Shafran with Shostakovich's advice and approval? And should one really count the Adagio excerpted from the Second Ballet Suite arranged for cello and piano by fellow composer Lev Atoymyan with Shostakovich's knowledge but not participation?

Why not? Or why not at least perform and record them all so that each listener can decide for him/herself? On this superbly recorded two-CD set, cellist Raphael Wallfisch, pianist John York, conductor Martyn Brabbins, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra make the strongest possible case for the worth of the Moderato and Adagio; indeed, Wallfisch all by himself makes the strongest possible case for the worth of Shostakovich's complete cello works. Always an extremely expressive cellist with a big tone, a fabulous technique, and a winning interpretation, Wallfisch gives better than his best with playing of consummate musicianship and interpretations of immense depth and tremendous compassion. Wallfisch seems to do more than perform the music here; he appears to inhabit it, to incarnate it in interpretations of emphatic understanding. Conductor Brabbins is a sympathetic accompanist and he leads the BBC through performances of blazing intensity. Pianist York is a powerful partner and he drives as much as he supports Wallfisch. Taken all together, most listeners would probably agree that, at least in these performances, all six works constitute Shostakovich's complete cello works. Nimbus' sound is exemplary: clear, close, and direct in the cello and piano works and big, clean, and vivid in the cello and orchestra works.

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