Alexander Somov

Shostakovich: Works for Cello

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In these days of digital sound, it is rare to find a disc in which the performers are undone by the recording. Yet it is so in this 2008 Gega disc featuring cello works by Soviet modernist master Dmitry Shostakovich. Cellist Alexander Somov has a powerful tone and a strong technique, but too often he is all but buried beneath his accompanists. In the Cello Concerto No. 1, the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony under Milen Nachev swamps Somov in fortes and sinks him in tuttis. In the Cello Sonata, pianist Bogdana Popova is more than an accompanist; she is the senior partner in the duo, more often than not drowning Somov in the mix. This imbalance is less the fault of the performers than the engineers. With too much reverb, too much hall ambiance, and far too much emphasis on the loudest instruments, Gega's sound does a disservice to Somov and Shostakovich. And with so many superb recordings of the concerto and the sonata available, it is hard to see the appeal of these. Dedicated Shostakovich fans will have to hear the two sets of encores, three pieces from the film The Gadfly, and three pieces from the Ballet Suite, because these are the only performances of the pieces currently available by a cellist. But while these are quite beautiful -- Somov's phrasing in the Ballet Suite's Elegy is especially lovely -- the overly reverberant recording still places the piano in front of the cello.

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