De Saram Plays Prokofiev


PROKOFIEV: Cello Concerto.* Ballade for Cello & Piano. Cello Sonata / Rohan de Saram, cel; *Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orch.; *Anatole Fistoulari, cond; Druvi de Saram, pno / First Hand Records FHR118 (live: *Vereniging, April 26, 1972; Hilversum, April 14, 1971 & April 27, 1972)

Rohan de Saram, now 82 years old, is still very active on the music scene but like so many other musicians has been holed up due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not to worry, however; he apparently has a stockpile of live recordings to draw on in emergencies such as this, so here we have his 1971-72 performances of works by Prokofiev.

Perhaps it’s my imagination, but the sound quality of the Cello Concerto is so good that you’d think it was recorded yesterday. It was also wonderful to hear again the vibrant conducting of the late Anatole Fistoulari, born in the Ukraine but later a British citizen. Between the two of them, they create magic with this not-so-well-worn piece. De Saram brings out all of the warmth that is in the score while Fistoulari keeps things moving on the podium.

The Ballade and Cello Sonata are played with Druvi de Saram, Rohan’s brother. The former, despite a few odd harmonic twists, is in a surprisingly Romantic vein for this composer, including portamento slides for the cellist. The opening is not so difficult to play technically as it is expressively, and once again de Saram is locked into the music’s mood. At about the two-minute mark the tempo increases, the cello plays odd pizzicato figures, and suddenly we’re in Prokofiev’s mature style.

The Cello Sonata, which I’d never heard previously, is an amusing and quirky work, almost like a Russian version of Poulenc. Here Prokofiev let his imagination run wild, with lively but fragmented bits of themes juxtaposed against one another as the whole sonata jobs merrily along, and the de Saram brothers do it up pink.

This is a simply wonderful CD, well worth acquiring.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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