If there is one nationality who really wrote with hearts on sleeves, it was the Russians. If there is an instrument that can really explore torment, it’s the cello. Russian Cello, is a wonderfully colourful project for Zoe Knighton and Amir Farid who deliver a selection from known masters (Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev) and less-known contemporaries (Glière, Gretchaninov and Sokolov).
The duo start with an exquisite rendition of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise that allows Knighton to warm up her thrilling tenor-sound, sensitively accompanied by Farid. The programming continues with other ‘songs without words’, including an enchanting Album Leaf from Glière followed by Stravinsky’s eccentric, folk-inspired Chanson Russe. The playing goes up a gear with a pair of Glazunov items, beginning with Chant du Ménéstrel. Knighton’s portamento is suitably full of woe and in the substantial Elégie she really gets to show much more range, muscling into her lowest register with grit. Farid is an attentive partner in crime. Both are attuned to each other’s subtle musical choices.
Gretchaninov’s Sonata is the first long-form piece on the album. With charming interjections from the piano and a pretty melody for the cello it’s a lovely warm up for Prokofiev’s Sonata, which gives Knighton and Farid a kaleidoscope of texture and colour to play with. It’s cheeky, thrilling and uncertain, as Prokofiev should be.