‘The idea for this programme of cello sonatas by Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Evgeny Kissin was directly inspired by my collaboration with pianist Roland Pöntinen. I immediately felt that our ideas about sound complemented one another; this stirred the idea of recording Russian repertoire, which requires that sensuous richness without losing transparency and voicing. The pieces on this album are connected by the concept of the Russian Ballad. The music tells ancient, epic tales of vast landscapes, fantastic creatures and surprising turns, transporting us into a world completely of its own.’
The 20th century saw an abundance of notable Russian cellists inspiring an extensive repertoire by Soviet composers. In the cello sonatas by Shostakovich and Prokofiev, both composers explore the rich and emotive timbre of the instrument with expressive subtleties and bittersweet emotions, alongside their typical touches of wit and irony. Internationally acclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin has recently returned to composing, and his Cello Sonata is akin to a ballad in its restraint and introspection.
Left incomplete at the composer’s death, the Sonata for Solo Cello proved to be the last piece that Prokofiev began, in 1952. The Sonata was premiered in Moscow by Natalia Gutman in 1972, in a version elaborated by musicologist Vladimir Blok, but on this recording Gabriel Schwabe plays the piece essentially as Prokofiev left it.
A laureate of numerous national and international competitions, Gabriel Schwabe is one of the leading cellists of his generation. He won the prestigious Pierre Fournier Award in London in 2009 and gave his recital debut at London's Wigmore Hall the following year. He is a regular guest at festivals such as the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, Kronberg Academy Festival and the Amsterdam Biennale, and has performed with leading artists such as Isabelle Faust, Christian Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt, Kirill Gerstein and Jonathan Gilad.
Pianist/composer Roland Pöntinen has performed with major orchestras throughout the world. He has appeared at many prestigious festivals, including the Schleswig-Holstein, Verbier and Mostly Mozart, and has worked with renowned conductors, including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Leif Segerstam. Many composers have dedicated works to him, and in 2007 he gave the world premiere of Rodion Shchedrin’s Romantic Duets together with the composer at the Verbier Festival.