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Lynn Harrell – cello

Royal Liverpool Phil Orch

conducted by Gerard Schwarz

Total time: 72'28"



Given a magical performance such as here Shostakovich's No 2 is a very, very lovely concerto. The long opening slow movement concludes with such a feeling of grief that one almost wishes that the work might end there. Not that the ensuing two Allegrettos are exactly jolly!.


People vary in their own individual appreciation of music. For me, this piece is almost like a haunting cry for the past which might have been – yet never was; and a ‘lebwohl' to the composer's friends. It seems to me that Shostakovich was pouring out a lament – yet without any self-pity whatsoever – and he must have known that he had not got all that longer to live.


A large orchestra, sparingly used to create an almost chamber effect clearly makes it a personal utterance, the essence of which lies in the notes. I am not privy to any ‘words' which may have caused these notes – hence my own feelings are evoked along the lines as above. It is a piece of rare beauty and insight, I cannot explain it, one simply has to hear it for oneself.


Of course the benchmark for this (and its earlier companion) are the recordings by Rostropovich, the finest probably being the one with Seiji Ozawa and Boston SO; but there are now several extremely fine performances on compact disc – Lynn Harrell's new one from AVIE included.




For the Prokofiev, the benchmark is as before – Rostropovich being the dedicatee of both works on this disc.


Prokofiev's late work is less obscure in feeling than that of his compatriot and the overall mood is much lighter. Full of Prokofiev's jaunty tunes and motoric rhythms, this Concerto is big boned and strong. The enormous (comparatively) central Allegro giusto has some of the most thrilling passagework for cello in the entire repertoire and the ear is constantly delighted with piquant sound flavours. The final ending, when it comes, sounds abrupt and we all know it has done.


In both works, the warm sound of Harrell's cello is astonishing and nothing seems too difficult for this agile master cellist who shows all the time that there is nothing he can't do. Interpretively his ideas on both works are convincing and have a sense of rightness about them. Different to – say – Maisky (on DGG), Harrell's meaningful way with the Prokofiev is as honest as any and I recommend this cd without hesitation. It is such a lovely pairing of two great cello works by two great Russian masters.


Dennis Day

© Peter Grahame Woolf