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Reviews: Shostakovich: Cello Works - Kanka, Klepac

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Reviews: 4

Review by JJ March 16, 2010 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Dimitri Chostakovitch’s (1906-1975) chamber music, “while not innovative,” states musicologist Pierre-Emile Barbier, “succeeds in synthesizing two inheritances, - the formal and technical one from Beethoven, and that from the two Russian schools, the first that goes from Tchaikovski to Miaskowski, and the second, “cosmopolitan,” from Borodine to Stravinski. From the latter, he adapted the formalism in creating a pathetic style, as well as a savage, devastating truculence, all his own.” The present recording in pure DSD proposes a work of youth, the Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor Op.40 dating from 1934, two pieces for cello and piano (adagio and waltz) from the Ballet Suite N°2, composed back in 1951, and the last work, the Sonata Op.147, composed in 1975 first for alto and piano, and played here for the first time on cello based on the original text. The duo of artists, Michal Kanka (cello) and Jaromir Klepac (piano) are the perfect image of music that is at once profound, tormented, serene, and sarcastic. Their playing magnificently espouses this expressive palette without artifice and without conceding to any kind of pathos. It allows each respiration to thrive from the warm tones of their instruments. In short, this is a not-to-be-missed SACD.

Jean-Jacques Millo
Translation Lawrence Schulman

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Review by Fugue April 29, 2010 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I fully concur--these are very powerful performances captured in a richly ambient hall. I vastly prefer the thick, rich tone of the cello in the Viola Sonata--it utterly transforms it into another piece. I haven't heard any competing versions, but I can scarcely imagine them being any better. Highly recommended.

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Review by Jonalogic September 27, 2010 (5 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
A fine and well-designed chamber release.

This is great music, well played and recorded. So, why no five stars all-round? Well, as you probably know by now, I am not in favour of over-marking, and I reserve 5 stars for the genuinely outstanding releases that rock my world. This does not quite reach that exalted level.

Shostakovich wrote some of the greatest and most accessible chamber music of the 20th (or any other!) century. This intriguing programme juxtaposes his early Op 40 cello sonata with the later, darker Op 147.

The Op 40 dates from before the Zhdanov debacles, and before Shostakovich started using chamber music - and particularly his great quartets - for his darker and more profound utterances, which he felt could not be made safely in his more public works. It is a relatively tuneful, positive and accessible piece, although not without its shadows.

The Op 147, his very last completed work, is altogether stronger meat. Transposed here for the cello - and eminently successfully - it is characteristically deeper, darker and more enigmatic. Staring into the abyss, Shostakovich quotes in the last movement (as he does in the his final 15th Symphony) from other composers -such as Beethoven and Wagner - as well as from his earlier works.

Both pieces are finely and sensitively played here.

Characteristic of the Pragas I have heard, the recordings seem to have been made a bit up-front, albeit in a large-ish hall with ample reverb. The result is natural, but a tad unfocussed to my ears. The resulting over-large instruments represent the weakest feature of the recording, although I would not want to make too much of this.

Strongly recommended if the repertoire appeals. But if you have not yet become acquainted with Shostakovich's chamber and instrumental works, then you really should be; without this, you cannot hope to have a complete picture of the man and his music.

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Review by robstl December 4, 2011 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
When I played in my university's orchestra way back when, my friends and I used to enjoy telling viola jokes. Examples: "How do you keep your expensive violin from being stolen? Keep it in a viola case!" "How do you get 10 oboists to play in tune? Shoot 9 of them. How do you get 10 violists to play in tune? Shoot all 10 of them!"

So, a viola joke (to the point of this disc) goes like this. A viola player, auditioning for a major symphony orchestra, impresses the judges with his sight reading, scales, intonation, etc. The judges ask what piece the violist has prepared for the audition, and he replies, "I shall play Mendelssohn's violin concerto." The judges' jaws drop. "Mendelssohn's VIOLIN concerto, on the viola?" "Yes." "As written, in the original range/tessitura? Impossible!" All are then quiet, the violist's face contorts in concentration... ...and then he plays the viola ACCOMPANIMENT part for the concerto!

Mr Kanka, the cellist on this disc, plays the op 147 Viola sonata _as written_; it is not transposed down an octave, as on the Shostakovich: Cello Sonatas - Friedrich Kleinhapl Kleinhapl disc. Since the cello is tuned an octave lower than the viola, this requires (at times) playing in the extreme high range on the cello. I was skeptical this could be done, but not only does Kanka succeed, it sounds effortlessly musical most of the time. Amazing. Playing as written also avoids some of the muddier voicings on the Kleinhapl recording (not that that recording is muddy, just the instrumental voicings are). My own preference is for the original arrangement with viola, but Kanka/Klepac is an impressive achievement.

We're close in to the instruments on this whole album, so there's a lot of detail (you can really hear the harmonic slides in the 2nd movement of the Cello sonata, for instance), but the hall behind is warm and resonant. The lower octaves on the piano, played softly, can be felt as well as heard.

I think this is a terrific disc.

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