Catherine Hewgill, From Darkness to Light

I’m not sure about the title of this CD – From Darkness to Light. None of it is exactly what you’d call sun-kissed and much of it is too emotionally and tonally ambiguous for such a glib and somewhat clichéd strap line. That said, the playing and the recording are both comprehensively excellent!

The only recording of either work I’ve heard is the 1957 LP of Rostropovich and Shostakovich himself at the piano, in remarkably good sound. Catherine Hewgill sees more lyricism than Rostropovich in the expansive opening movement, especially in the ravishing second subject which reminded me of Fauré (of all people). But she also catches the trademark sardonic lip-curling in the Scherzo, the usual lugubriousness in the Largo and the manic scuttling in the finale.

Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata was among his more mellow later works, which seem deceptively unexceptionable, even conservative, to the toxic musical establishment but, one imagines, still manage to communicate a subversive message, however subliminally. Prokofiev once admitted he “couldn’t compose melodies” (although
how this statement by someone who composed Romeo and Juliet could be taken at face value strains credulity: just listen to the gorgeous G Major theme in the opening Andante grave, whose title belies its essential lyricism). The playing is lovely, alert and spiky when necessary and the sound is warm and unusually close.

Composer: Prokofiev, Shostakovich
Composition: Cello Sonatas
Performer: Catherine Hewgill vc, Vladimir Ashkenazy p
Catalogue Number: DECCA 4816562

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