CD review: Elschenbroich’s Schnittke

First published in the Guardian on 5 January, 2016

Schnittke: Musica Nostalgica
Leonard Elschenbroich/Petr Limonov (Onyx)

Cellist Leonard Elschenbroich puts himself right at the heart of this recording: he sees his relationship with the music of Alfred Schnittke — Soviet composer of German Jewish heritage — as a personal identity quest by way of “journeying from my longing for Russian towards my homecoming to German music”. The disc even culminates in a short piece called Shards of Alfred Schnittke that Elschenbroich wrote in his early 20s as “a sort of composed interpretation”. The playing is introspective and intense, with plenty moody self-reflection in the dark ebbs and whispered nostalgia of Schnittke’s First Cello Sonata. The Suite in the Old Style is a reworking of film music from the excellently named Sport, Sport, Sport and Adventures of a Dentist; here Elschenbroich’s seriousness misses the caustic wit in the music, but he makes up for it with a cello sound that growls and gleams. Petr Limonov provides immaculately chiselled piano counterparts throughout.