The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Sol Gabetta (cello) Mihaela Ursuleasa (piano) Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Marc Albrecht (conductor)
Composer: Shostakovich

Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto is much darker in nature than the composer’s first and has all too often been regarded as its poor cousin. Yet recently interest in the work has been rekindled, particularly on CD with fine recordings from Pieter Wispelwey (Channel Classics), Daniel Müller-Schott (Orfeo) and now Argentinian-born Sol Gabetta. Having studied with Rostropovich pupils Ivan Monighetti and more recently David Geringas, Gabetta reveals something of the great maestro’s authority in this vividly recorded live performance.

The Second Concerto, though, offers the potential for an infinite variety of interpretations. For example, while Wispelwey imbues the opening bars with subtle inflection and mystery, Gabetta’s numb, deadpan depiction of the melodic line is no less convincing. Adopting a slower tempo than some in this movement, she still admirably maintains the tension and brings real impact to the musical intensity of the middle section. Here Gabetta produces wildly brutal jagged attacks – a superb contrast to the earlier restraint.   
This compellingly intelligent account boasts similarly colourful partnership from Marc Albrecht and the Munich Philharmonic, who maximise the graphic and theatrical impact of the orchestration and lend the shimmering percussion extra prominence in the cello cadenza and at the start of the finale.

Flawless technical accomplishment is merely incidental to Gabetta’s imagination, which triumphs again in the Cello Sonata, where she conveys a more lyrical mood. Shostakovich’s trademark grey intensity, however, is never far from the surface – a feature that Gabetta sensitively explores in the melancholic Largo. No question – here is an impressive talent set to blossom.   

Joanne Talbot