Tim Hugh, principal cellist of the London Symphony Orchestra, shines in this colossal recital given at Wigmore Hall a year ago in memory of his brother. Bartók’s Rhapsody no.1 transcribes well for cello and Hugh really fathoms the essence of its folk rhythms. A similar flair for the Hungarian style ignites the mighty Solo Sonata by Kodály. Maintaining the musical tension in the first movement is always problematic because of its numerous tempo changes and its rhapsodic writing, but the momentum and narrative are here astutely negotiated. The hauntingly beautiful second movement is equally effective, and Hugh knows exactly when to push and pull the tempos yet retain the all-important musical thread. The ensuing finale sizzles along, leading to a bravura conclusion.
The whole recital rarely leaves the terrain of the virtuosic, not least the Paganini ‘Moses’ Variations, which veritably sparkles. Prior to this, the sensual passion of Piazzolla swerves with captivating intensity. Despite the intoxicating tango rhythms it’s a challenge to keep this piece afloat for ten minutes, but Hugh and Olga Sitkovetsky wisely allow the middle section to relax before pushing forwards to the exhilarating close.
Not all of course is hotly spiced: for melancholic passion the Russians are recruited. Rachmaninoff’s song Ne Poy Krasavitsa is to the cello born and its sentiment of the pain of parted loves is eloquently conveyed by both artists.
The live recording misses studio refinement, but this is an impressive programme, commandingly performed and combining the giants of the cello repertoire with delightful and breezy showpieces.
From the November 2008 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.