Schelomo – Rhapsodie hébraïque
Voice in the Wilderness – Symphonic poem with cello obbligato
From Jewish Life [arranged by Christopher Palmer]
Kol Nidrei – Adagio on Hebrew melodies, Op.47
Natalie Clein (cello)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 7 & 8 September 2011 in City Hall, Candleriggs, Glasgow
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: October 2012
CD No: HYPERION CDA67910
Duration: 61 minutes
This release unites music written for the cello using Jewish themes for inspiration, the soulfulness of the instrument in its mid to lower register ideal for such expressive purposes. In Natalie Clein Hyperion has a cellist who matches this music with unwavering tone, getting right to the centre of its lyricism.
It’s difficult to imagine better and more committed performances of Schelomo (1916) and Voice in the Wilderness (1936). Ilan Volkov shades the orchestral accompaniment beautifully, bringing it to the fore when the music demands. In Schelomo these moments are particularly striking; the climactic moments of exposition and recapitulation carry with them a strong emotional surge. Clein plays with just the right amount of heart on sleeve, pushing the tempo on at times but holding back a little in the slower sections, as if lost in thought. Bloch’s idea that the cello should represent Solomon (Schelomo) in this piece comes to life in these noble melodies. Clein has superb control of the higher line, able to soar above the orchestral texture with ease. There is a pronounced urgency to the first two minutes in particular and a memorable and ruminative passage from 13’40 onwards, the cellist’s baleful tone shadowed by double basses.
If anything Voice in the Wilderness carries a weightier emotional punch than Schelomo. Here the orchestra and cello are treated more as equals. The recorded balance is spot on to reflect this, aided by the acute ear for detail shared by soloist and conductor. Clein plays with deep feeling, assertive but soulful, really perking up for the strident writing in the ‘Moderato’ section accompanied by crisp brass and incisive pizzicatos. The cadenza, positioned before the final flourish, is brilliantly performed, Clein’s double-stopping beyond reproach.
In between these substantial utterances is the brief three-movement From Jewish Life, well-known to cello-students in its with-piano guise but here given greater stature in an orchestration for strings and harp by the late Christopher Palmer. Clein warms to the opening ‘Prayer’. Max Bruch based Kol Nidrei on two Hebrew melodies, one restless, one serene. Clein and Volkov portray the first with its nervous energy, but the beautiful hymn-tune is taken a little too hastily and loses emotional impact.
It’s the only blot on a set of impressive performances, Natalie Clein’s fine and sensitive playing complemented by Ilan Volkov’s appreciation for beautifully coloured orchestration. The recorded sound is excellent.