Rachmaninov & Prokofiev: Cello sonatas by Nina Kotova and Fabio Bidini

Russian cellist Nina Kotova’s 2014 recording of Bach cello suites became a favourite amongst Readings staff and customers. Eschewing the usual constraints of historically informed performance, Kotova’s raw and emotionally intense playing style instantly resonated with her listeners. Her latest album features an all-Russian program of Rachmaninov, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, giving even greater scope for Romantic interpretation. Kotova is joined by Italian pianist Fabio Bidini, whose zealous approach to the music matches Kotova’s own.

While purists may object to the cellist’s unorthodox interpretation of Bach, there can be no doubt that she is right at home with the music of her countrymen. Originally composed for Mstislav Rostropovich, Prokofiev’s brilliant Sonata for cello and piano in C, Op. 119 provides Kotova the opportunity to demonstrate the full breadth and depth of her instrument. Haunting is the low and grave cello solo at the beginning of the first movement, which is quietly joined by a lilting piano accompaniment. The serenity eventually gives way to become something altogether more Prokoviefian – unpredictable, fiery, jocular, and virtuosic. Kotova and Bidini’s bold interpretation is, to my ears, a remarkable achievement.

Rachmaninov’s Sonata for cello and piano in G minor, Op. 19 is equally dramatic, and altogether more lyrical. Both cello and piano are given equal prominence, and the sonata therefore requires two equally virtuosic instrumentalists, best demonstrated in the final movement marked Allegro mosso. Here, Bidini approaches with skill and abandon Rachmaninov’s challenging piano writing, to which Kotova responds with alternating energy and tenderness, as the score dictates. A highlight of the disc is the closing Meditation by Tchaikovsky which, while brief, showcases the beauty, expressivity and elegance of Kotova’s playing. Although worlds apart from the intimacy of the Bach album, I’ve no doubt listeners will enjoy Kotova’s epic survey of the Russian cello repertoire.

Alexandra Mathew is from Readings Carlton.

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Rachmaninov & Prokofiev: Cello sonatas

Rachmaninov & Prokofiev: Cello sonatas

Nina Kotova, Fabio Bidini

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