Live Classics’ Natalia Gutman “Portrait” series continues with a second volume documenting the cellist’s work from her early career up to the present. A 1967 German radio broadcast of the Debussy Cello Sonata stands out for Gutman’s warm, expansive tone and strong, fluid support from pianist Alexei Nassedkin. A few moments of uncertain intonation and less-than-centered articulation in the second movement’s opening pizzicatos are a small price to pay for fine overall ensemble values. Gutman shines in the declamatory, slow-motion passages that dominate the outer movements of Schnittke’s First Cello Sonata, and throws herself head first into the central Presto’s roller-coaster arpeggios and ruthless clusters. A gripping performance, this: every bit as authoritative as Alexander Ivashkin’s with the composer’s widow Irina Scnittke at the piano. She’s a more sensitive colorist than Gutman’s solid yet comparatively monochrome Vassily Lobanov.
…Bach is the most indestructible of composers, and only die-hard 'original instrument' purists would reject the virtuoso, big-boned style of these performances. The virtuosity is apparent throughout, both of the soloist(s) and of course the orchestra. But it is virtuosity in the service of Bach, not virtuosity for its own sake. Tempi are direct and quick, but articulation remains clear, so that details are projected. The fine balancing of textures allows for details to be heard in fully scored passages too…
Alexis Weissenberg (July 26, 1929 – January 8, 2012) was a Bulgarian-born French pianist.
None of these reconstructions are included in Teldec’s Bach 2000, although the better-known ‘originals’ obviously are. The real newcomer is the Sinfonia, BWV1045 (5'34'') ‘to an unknown cantata’ which – as befits a BWV number that immediately precedes the First Brandenburg Concerto – is rumbustious, festive and thematically likeable. Time and again I could sense allusions to other Bach instrumental pieces, though the soloist’s ceaseless arpeggiating is sometimes a distraction. We’re told it’s authentic (the manuscript source suggests a violin concerto in the making) but something about its harmonic language doesn’t quite ring true, though that reaction might well be due to lack of familiarity.