Although Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata is hardly under-recorded, this release is made more interesting by its coupling with the Viola Sonata. Michal Ka?ka performs this work in its original tessitura as opposed to the arrangement by Daniil Shafran – a crucial decision as the dramatic impact of the writing is infinitely more searing in the higher range of the cello. Of all the cello versions of op.147 that I’ve heard, these artists really make it ignite in expressive intensity, and they bring great cogency to the first movement, while lending poignant eloquence to the concluding Adagio with its symbolically embedded musical references to Beethoven, Berg and Shostakovich. Equally, the two arrangements by Lev Atovmyan from the Second Ballet Suite are performed with persuasive élan: the ‘Spring Waltz’ is given a particularly spirited account on this warmly recorded CD.
My only caveat surfaces in the first movement of the Cello Sonata, which seems curiously reserved and uninvolved. If this was a decision to focus the emotional centre of the work on to the Largo, however, it is successful in that intent. The players’ scherzo has both a whimsical charm and brutal burlesque that underline the duality within Shostakovich’s complex emotional style – nothing ever perhaps quite as it seems. The finale, meanwhile, fizzes with an unhinged, furious energy.