The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Alexander Rudin (cello) Jana Ivanilova (soprano) Vladimir Skanavi (piano) Victor Ginsburg (piano) Musica Viva Orchestra
Composer: Saint-Saëns, Paganini, Alyabiev, Arensky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Brahms, Tchaikovsky & Bach (arr. Gounod)

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Alexander Rudin has a phenomenal technique and has chosen works that show it off in no uncertain terms. But his latest disc is not just about virtuosic display, though it includes just about every technical challenge in the book – Rudin really is a consummate artist, and the beauty of his sound and his eloquence of expression are just as notable.

There’s an acknowledged degree of nostalgia to this CD: the earliest-recorded track by far, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Fantasia on Le coq d’or, was recorded at the outset of Rudin’s career, during the 1982 International Tchaikovsky Competition (of which is he now a jury member). Like several of the opther pieces here that he says inspired him in his youth, it’s a transcription from the violin repertoire, and includes jaw-droppingly fiendish rapid passages in octaves – one thing on the violin, quite another on the cello. The four Paganini caprice transcriptions again defy belief – the chromatic downward runs in no.17 so gracefully done, like trickling water.

More recently, Rudin has resurrected the music of 19th-century composer Alexander Alyabiev, whose two beautiful songs for soprano, piano and cello obbligato, passionately performed by Ivanilova, deserve to become much better known. So too do the Arensky miniatures featured here, from his song Lily of the Valley to the Romance op.56, played with exquisite attention to detail, varying the tone colours, but never at the expense of a beautiful sound. The recordings are very good, with the cello heard in every detail but without any reality scratches and grunts.