Matthew Wadsworth (theorbo); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/ Benjamin Marquise Gilmore Deux-elles DXL1182 (digital-only release) 19:23 mins
‘first concerto for theorbo’ is unashamedly clever. Listen without the contextual notes and you experience a sensory whirlwind in which the theorbo is catapulted into the present, reinventing itself with a range of extended techniques and, under Matthew Wadsworth’s deft fingers, soloistic effects it never knew it was capable of. Between the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s tightly-executed themes that combine a whiff of Elgar and Shostakovich with Bach and Blues, Wadsworth shimmers, jostles, and dances – holding his own in this new territory. The age-old challenge of its audibility not only relies on careful amplification, but also fuels Goss’s trademark sudden gear changes and stark contrasts.
Back to the top with reference to the programme notes this time and a whole new intricately-designed world emerges. With David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas as inspiration, the four movements ‘Prelude’, ‘Scherzo’, ‘Passacaglia’, and ‘Finale’ not only flit between time and place but interweave variations on a theme alongside a waltz, siciliana, tarantella, Mexican huapango, and both ground and boogy-woogie bass lines. Three interlacing interludes – in which Wadsworth (plus double bass) expertly accompany violin, viola, and cello in turn – give moments of repose and remind us of the theorbo’s resonant roots before its next wild adventure.
Piano Concertos Nos 1, 3 & 4
Vadym Kholodenko (piano);
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/ Miguel Harth-bedoya
Harmonia Mundi HMM 907632
Personality, thought Stravinsky, was Prokofiev's strongest quality. Vadym Kholodenko, 14th Van Cliburn Competition gold medallist, has plenty of it, albeit not close to what we know of the composer’s cheek as pianist. Though his playing is always lucid, never muddy, Kholodenko looks at these three works through late-romantic eyes in the lyric passages. I like his thoughtfulness in the usually skittish theme to which the First Piano Concerto settles, after a less than Puckish early cadenza; Kholodenko then takes the moonshine of what was early on labelled a ‘footballish’ concerto – though, now, we now see it as a compliment, Prokofiev must have taken it disparagingly. The Fourth is by contrast more gymnastic; it was commissioned, but never played, by Paul Wittgenstein – who had lost his right arm in the First World War. The booklet note should have taken in more up-to-date research on the subject concerning Wittgenstein's attitude to a work he never played.
Kholodenko keeps his balance here on the high wire while the orchestral lines, well shaped by ★arth-bedoya, do most of the singing. If the slow movement is not to seem doodly, though, it needs more of a forward-moving line through it. Sound for these two works is close and rather dry, not unsuitable for the nature of the pieces; the Third Concerto, recorded nearly two years later, sets the orchestra some way behind the soloist. Again, the scintillating passages sound a bit straight, especially alongside such characters as Simon Trp eski and Yuja Wang; Kholodenko’s claim to distinction lies in the poetry of the many introspective moments. David Nice PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★
Nimble fingered: Matthew Wadsworth dazzles on the theorbo