, August 2011
Three sonatas and the popular Vocalise in performances it would be hard to fault
Who is going to turn up their noses at 82 and a half minutes of Russian cello-and-piano classics, delivered with complete technical aplomb and sureness of idiomatic touch by one of the finest partnerships around? Not me. Chaushian and Sudbin show that it is actually possible to deliver Rachmaninov’s Sonata full-throatedly without making it sound like a piano concerto with cello accompaniment. And they demonstrate equally that Shostakovich’s Sonata does not need hysterical exaggeration of its subtexts in order to be richly communicative.
That brace of sonatas alone would have made for a worthwhile disc. Borodin’s B minor Sonata, a fragmentary early-ish work completed by Mikhail Goldstein, admittedly promises rather more than it delivers, and, not knowing the manuscript, I have no idea which hand is responsible for the bits of the Second Symphony and allusions to other composers dotted throughout the somewhat chaotic structure—Goldstein was, after all, a notorious spoofer. There have been other recordings of this curiosity but, if you fancy having it in your library, you would be lucky to find it played half as well as it is here.
In the Rachmaninov I hear still more range of colour and attack—and in general a more rapturous responsiveness—from Mørk and Thibaudet, and for the Shostakovich I would certainly want to turn from time to time to larger-than-life personalities such as Rostropovich and the composer (whose 1957 recording comes and goes on various labels but is rarely long absent from the catalogue). Chaushian is also non-indulgent to a fault in the famous Vocalise. But for reference versions of this repertoire, distinguished by impeccable taste and top-notch sound, I would be greatly reassured to have this new disc on my shelves, too.