The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Denise Djokic (cello)
Composer: Britten

Nova Scotia-born cellist Denise Djokic, a student of Richard Aaron at the Cleveland Institute of Music who later studied in Boston with Paul Katz and Laurence Lesser, emerges as a serious artist with a distinctive identity in this her third recording. Her career has so far centred on North America, but on the strength of this she deserves wider international recognition.

Britten’s three suites, written for Rostropovich between 1964 and 1971, run the whole gamut of cello techniques and of expression, from the desolate to the grotesque. Djokic presents the music with dignity and flair – there is no sense of anything to prove, or of pressing on to the next big moment.

It’s rare that Djokic produces a sound from her cello that is not beautiful – the moto perpetuo movements in Suites nos.1 and 3 seem to flow out of her cello with breathtaking speed, and the spread chords and double-stops of the Fuga in the Third Suite are seamlessly joined. The term artistry seems particularly apt for her playing – time and again when listening to her I was reminded of a visual artist – painting in broad strokes in the cantos of no.1 or pencil sketching in the sparer textures of the Ciaccona of Suite no.2.

Djokic conveys the desolation of the outer movements of Suite no.3 most movingly, placing the spaced pizzicato Cs with an air of inevitability, with the Kontakion theme at the end almost unbearably sad. Her playing is exquisitely recorded to bring out the freshness and crispness of her sound without losing any clarity through reverberation.