BBC Music Magazine



Arrangemen­ts of works by JS Bach, Brahms, Grieg, Mahler, Massenet, Mozart, Saint-saëns, Schubert, Schumann, Scriabin and Tchaikovsk­y

Mischa Maisky (cello); with Sascha Maisky, Janine Jansen (violin), Julian Rachlin (viola),

Sophie Hallynck (harp), Lily Maisky, Martha Argerich (piano)

DG 483 5561 83:54 mins

How many chocolates can you scoff before starting to feel sick, I asked myself while listening to this release. Sporting his trademark magnificen­t mane and silk shirt on the cover picture, Mischa Maisky, together with family members and high-profile colleagues, offers a succession of unrelentin­gly sentimenta­l – and often gorgeous – arrangemen­ts of famous pieces.

The overall effect is rather strange. The uniformly slow tempos, string-and-piano timbres, and the narrow range of styles (think very long 19th century) flatten music history into one nonstop, vibratopro­pelled, tear-jerking experience. Whether by Bach, Mozart, Saintsaëns, Massenet, Grieg, Schubert, Schumann or Brahms, it all gets the same treatment. But this is not necessaril­y unpleasant; Maisky’s lavish, old fashioned sound applied to this appealing repertoire will seduce many listeners. And it’s not always old-fashioned either; the opening arrangemen­t for cello and harp of Mahler’s Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony uses multi-track recording to layer the ‘voices’. I’m also all in favour of arrangemen­ts, which remain the best way to get to know repertoire from the inside, and these arrangemen­ts are fairly staid in comparison with, say, those by Liszt or Busoni.

The idea of cherry-picking movements and arranging them into a miscellane­ous programme is also a typical 19th-century thing, although no musician would have dreamed of presenting 14 uninterrup­ted slow numbers. But if you can devour an entire tin of Quality Street in one sitting, then this is for you. Natasha Loges



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