Vol.I: Shostakovich, Cello Concertos op.107 & op.126*, Schnittke, Dialogue (1965)**

Natalia Gutman (Cello), USSR Radio Symph. O./Kyrill Kondrashin, Moscow State O./Dmitri Kitajenko*, Gnessin Ch. O./Yuri Nikolaevsky**; Moscow 1976, 1986*, 1982**

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This is Vol. I of a Portrait Series devoted to that fine cellist Natalia Gutman and it gives us excellent performances of three Russian works recorded between 1976 and 1986. Her playing of the first Shostakovich is taut and rhythmically precise, but even more striking is the orchestral playing under Kyrill Kondrashin. The shrillness of the woodwind and the sarcasm of the brass heighten the anger and satire of this concerto.

It is a pity that it has come to overshadow its successor, for the second concerto is another dark work, even more embittered. Gutman’s performance is fully equal to the challenge and she is well supported by the conducting of Dmitri Kitajenko.

Schnittke’s Dialogue dates from 1965 and shows the strong influence of Shostakovich but soon declares its individuality in some manic writing for the chamber group. But the mixture of styles had not then become a mannerism and one listens with keen ears to Schnittke’s astonishing flair for unusual blending of instrumental colours.

Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph 4/01

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