The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Steven Isserlis (cello) Tapiola Sinfonietta/Gábor Takács-Nagy
Composer: Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev, Bloch

The ancestry of the four orchestrations is detailed in the disc’s booklet notes, though the work masquerading under the name of Debussy is highly questionable. At the age of 19 he composed a Suite for cello and orchestra, but only the Intermezzo survived, in a version for cello and piano. From this the British composer Sally Beamish has taken many liberties in arriving at a performing score in five movements. From the orchestral texture it could well be Lalo, but to my ears it is hardly Debussy.

Richard Tognetti and Steven Isserlis take liberties, too, with Ravel; Kabalevsky’s much-used orchestration of Prokofiev’s incomplete Concertino is replaced by a more transparent backdrop from Vladimir Blok; and for the Bloch, Christopher Palmer introduces an orchestra and changes the order of movements.

All were arranged at Isserlis’s behest, so it would be churlish, in such outstanding performances, not to accept such well-intended reconstructions. Indeed, he draws the most gorgeous singing tone from the 1726 Stradivarius once played by Zara Nelsova, and in every technical aspect he is immaculate. If at time he lingers with evident affection, he nevertheless shapes the works to perfection. The Tapiola Sinfonietta makes a significant contribution in a well-balanced recorded sound.