The Russian Album: Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Shchedrin

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Chamber

Label: Avie

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 74

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: AV2410

AV2410. The Russian Album: Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Shchedrin

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Sonata for Cello and Piano Sergey Rachmaninov, Composer
Alexander Panfilov, Piano
Christoph Croisé, Cello
À la Albéniz Rodion Konstantinovich Shchedrin, Composer
Alexander Panfilov, Piano
Christoph Croisé, Cello
(The) Love for Three Oranges, Movement: Marche Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Alexander Panfilov, Piano
Christoph Croisé, Cello
New York Honk Thomas Demenga, Composer
Alexander Panfilov, Piano
Christoph Croisé, Cello

It’s not just Yuja Wang whose encores threaten to steal the show. Christoph Croisé and Alexander Panfilov’s ‘Russian Album’ is rounded off with three absolute zingers. Shchedrin’s homage to Albéniz wears its Spanish style very much à la russe; Croisé and Panfilov are by turns deadpan and suave. Prokofiev’s March from The Love for Three Oranges is tart and droll. And Thomas Demenga’s New York Honk is, as the name implies, a hoot: a Broadway boogie complete with taxi horns and traffic sounds, thrown off by Croisé and Panfilov in a trifle over two dazzlingly virtuoso minutes.

Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends. Pairings of the Rachmaninov and Shostakovich cello sonatas are a growth area; I reviewed one by Victor Julien-Laferrière and Jonas Vitaud just a few weeks ago (Alpha, 1/20), and they were just the most recent entrants in a crowded field. In these circumstances, the appeal of Panfilov’s extrovert old-school virtuosity and Croisé’s big, warm tone and sensitively applied portamentos has to be set against the fact that the recorded balance between the two instruments in the Rachmaninov is so intractable.

It’s less of an issue in the Shostakovich; the sepulchral cortège at the end of the first movement is just one of many rewarding moments in a searching, tender and atmospheric overall performance. But in the Rachmaninov a booming, congested piano sound cloaks everything with a thick, buzzing haze. Even when, in the two outer movements, Croisé’s cello just about manages to cut through, it’s at the expense of the detail buried within the piano part. The problem is least pronounced in the slow movement; but essentially, if the Rachmaninov is your priority, you should look elsewhere. There’s ample choice.

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