Live Classics’ Natalia Gutman “Portrait” series continues with a second volume documenting the cellist’s work from her early career up to the present. A 1967 German radio broadcast of the Debussy Cello Sonata stands out for Gutman’s warm, expansive tone and strong, fluid support from pianist Alexei Nassedkin. A few moments of uncertain intonation and less-than-centered articulation in the second movement’s opening pizzicatos are a small price to pay for fine overall ensemble values. Gutman shines in the declamatory, slow-motion passages that dominate the outer movements of Schnittke’s First Cello Sonata, and throws herself head first into the central Presto’s roller-coaster arpeggios and ruthless clusters. A gripping performance, this: every bit as authoritative as Alexander Ivashkin’s with the composer’s widow Irina Scnittke at the piano. She’s a more sensitive colorist than Gutman’s solid yet comparatively monochrome Vassily Lobanov.
My first encounter with Rameau came when I was seven years old. The piano was predominant in musical life in the Soviet Union at the time but Johann Sebastian Bach was the only composer to represent the baroque era. Ever-present in concert halls, his compositions were also the daily bread of young pianists in music school. My first teacher had been born in Paris and had a deep knowledge and strong sense of French culture, especially French literature. Thanks to him, I in turn fell in love with France in general and Rameau in particular, and Rameau has stayed with me ever since. I have always kept him in a corner of my mind without ever being able to play his music in public, because unfortunately concert organisers, including in France, then as now prefer composers better known to the general public.