Shostakovich – Complete Works for Cello

On this superbly recorded two-CD set, cellist Raphael Wallfisch, pianist John York, conductor Martyn Brabbins, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra make the strongest possible case for the worth of the Moderato and Adagio; indeed, Wallfisch all by himself makes the strongest possible case for the worth of Shostakovich’s complete cello works. Always an extremely expressive cellist with a big tone, a fabulous technique, and a winning interpretation, Wallfisch gives better than his best with playing of consummate musicianship and interpretations of immense depth and tremendous compassion. Wallfisch seems to do more than perform the music here; he appears to inhabit it, to incarnate it in interpretations of emphatic understanding. Conductor Brabbins is a sympathetic accompanist and he leads the BBC through performances of blazing intensity. Pianist York is a powerful partner and he drives as much as he supports Wallfisch. Taken all together, most listeners would probably agree that, at least in these performances, all six works constitute Shostakovich’s complete cello works. Nimbus’ sound is exemplary: clear, close, and direct in the cello and piano works and big, clean, and vivid in the cello and orchestra works.
www.allmusic.com

Shchedrin: Ancient Melodies of Russian folk-songs, Cello Sonata

What makes the collection especially exciting is the rarity of having the composer accompany a world famous soloist. One now almost certainly knows that this is how the music is meant to sound.

The Sonata is the main work on the disc … [it] falls into three unconventional movements and is, in my view, a stunning work. Certainly, as Calum McDonald admits, right from the start you feel the presence of Shostakovich.

As for the performance it is very powerful. I am sure that all performers would admit that there is no such thing as a perfect technique and the composer certainly stretches the cellist’s skills. This is at times almost beyond the possible. This is true particularly in the upper register and even the great Raphael Wallfisch would agree.

The recording is first class and I must add how much I always like Nimbus’s house style of booklet photography.

Gary Higginson – MusicWeb International

Foulds – Cello Concerto, Sainsbury – Cello Concerto

Lionel Sainsbury’s vibrant concerto of 1999 is heart-on-the-sleeve music, painted in bold colours, and could hardly find more enthusiastic interpreters than Wallfisch and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The soloist’s role here is one of an extrovert leader and Wallfisch, recorded well to the fore, brings vitality amd a range of emotion to the part, his beautifully focused sound taking on an urgency in its high reaches in the first movement and soaring eloquently in the intese slow movement. [John Fould’s Concerto] is full of attractive melodies. Wallfisch’s sound is not recorded quite so prominently, but his cadenza in the finale, brilliantly executed, takes his cello through virtuosic heights of double-stopping.

Janet Banks, The Strad, July 2012

If you respond well to tonal, melodious, well-written music, you will probably respond to this, especially in such an authoritative performance as this one from Raphael Wallfisch, a cellist to whom many a composer has reason to be grateful … I don’t think either of these concertos is an undiscovered masterpiece, but both are serious and satisfying works, worthy of our attention. Wallfisch is the natural choice as soloist. He plays with supreme authority in both works, devoting the same energy and care as he would to thegreatest works in the repertoire. Martin Yates, too, has shown his willingness to explore these musical backwaters, and the two orchestras play marvellously well under his direction.

William Hedley, International Record Review May 2012

Ireland, Moeran, Rubbra

I can think of few cellists better suited temperamentally to this repertoire than Raphael Wallfisch. He has a warmth of tone that I find very appealing and his playing is always deeply musical. He also wears his technique rather more lightly than some of his more abrasive, higher-profile rivals …

Gramophone

Rózsa – Concerto for Cello and Orchestra op.32

Rózsa – Concerto for Cello and Orchestra op.32
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Cello and Orchestra op.29

… this brilliant performance, which has nothing to fear from memories of the work’s dedicatees [Heifetz and Piatigorsky]. They achieve chamber-music like intimacy in their closely intertwined parts, while sacrificing nothing in soloistic performance.
The Strad September 2006

Raphael Wallfisch plays as if he had an electric current running through him. He gobbles the music up – not politely, but with irresistable zest. Philippe Graffin’s contribution to the Sinfonia Concertante is cut from the same cloth. Could it be that Heifetz’s spirit took him over? All music making should be so exciting.
International Record Review September 2006

Raphael Wallfisch clearly has an affinity with these splendid works and the BBC Concert Orchestra are on great form. Philippe Graffin partners Wallfisch adroitly in the Sinfonia concertante … in excellent sound … for this unique pairing this newcomer can be warmly recommended.
Gramophone October 2006

Prokofiev/Shchedrin

It is always a pleasure to welcome a new CD from Raphael Wallfisch, for this fine artist is so consistently admirable a cellist, and his choice of repertoire is so invariably worthwhile, often bringing to our attention music which, for one reason or other, is unjustly neglected. So it proves here …

Cinq Mélodies (transcribed composer/Shchedrin)
… I was unaware of Shchedrin’s relatively recent orchestration of the other four … The result has both surprised and delighted me; here is, as it were, a new work for cellists, which ought to be added to their repertoire, but they would be hard-pressed to match the insight and virtuosic projection, allied to a fine sense of inner feeling, that Wallfisch brings to them.

Prokofiev – Cello Concertino in G minor
Prokofiev’s op. 132 is, as one might expect, his concerto equivalent to the Seventh Symphony (the work that immediately preceded it); a beautiful, unpretentious and supremely lyrical score of haunting melodic distinction and style … Wallfisch gives an absolutely lovely performance of this endearing music and he is extremely well partnered by orchestra and conductor.

Shchedrin – Parabola Concertante
Shchedrin himself is heard in his Parabola Concertante (good title) for cello, strings and timpani … written for and premièred by Rostropovich. It receives an extremely compelling performance here, very well recorded.

All in all, this constitutes an important issue from Nimbus, which I recommend with enthusiasm.

Robert Matthew-Walker – International Record Review

Prokofiev – Works for cello and piano

Raphael Wallfisch’s reading is gripping and suitably heroic and dark-hued in stature … he coaxes some beautifully full-throated and lyrical readings from the instrument … If you are looking for a comprehensive survey of Prokofiev’s music for solo cello, look no further.

Gramophone

Wallfisch’s transcription of the Cinq mélodies, normally performed on a violin, is absolutely inspired, so much so that it is sure to feature regularly in recital programmes in the future.

BBC Music Magazine

Prokofiev – Sinfonia Concertante op. 125

This splendid new issue is the first for many years and fills an important gap in the catalogue. Wallfisch gives a thoroughly committed account on this excellent recording and Neeme Järvi lends him every support .

Gramophone

Poulenc – Sonata for cello and piano

… Raphael Wallfisch plays the work with a light touch and very little vibrato … there are some beautiful portamento shifts and the changes of mood are very well defined. The excessivement calme at the end of the Cavatine is also excessively sotto voce and highly effective in Wallfisch’s hands, and the brief puckish Ballabile movement is stylishly played. John York’s 2003 transcriptions of Poulenc’s songs C’est ainsi que tu es and C are very welcome additions to the cello repertory. The tragic wartime song C is particularly moving and offers Wallfisch the one real chance to show what his 1717 Stradivari is made of in some beautiful, expressive, high-tessitura playing.

Janet Banks – The Strad August 2005