ENESCU; PROKOFIEV; SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Sonatas
Laura Buruiana and Alexandra Silocea, who both come from Romania, make a formidable duo, playing with immense assurance, verve and finesse. The Enescu is a product of his precocious teenage years, a sonata first movement that remained a torso. Written in the same year (1898) as the official First Sonata, it’s a strong piece, romantic, forceful and affecting. This performance matches the youthful enthusiasm of the music, with Silocea presenting her elaborate part in the grand manner, yet never swamping the cello.
The Prokofiev similarly offers rich-toned playing, with much variety of sound and articulation bringing out the different facets of its complex first movement. The conclusion of the sonata, grandiose and triumphant, is difficult to hear without reflecting on the composer’s recent trouble with Soviet officialdom. A reply to just criticism or an ironic adoption of the required positive attitude? In a performance of such conviction, the question is all the more sharply focused.
The Shostakovich elicits from the duo a combination of high spirits, virtuoso panache and, in its darker moments, intense concentration. It’s a very different performance from the one recorded in 1946 by the composer and Daniil Shafran, which adopts more spacious tempi in all four movements, focusing our attention on details of phrasing and articulation, and making the changes of mood (some of them violent) more pointed. And the slow tempo of the Largo gives Shafran the space to play with more plangent expression. But there’s room, I think, for a different approach, and Silocea and Buruiana are entirely persuasive.