Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904-87)

Recorded last month and first streamed on Wigmore’s Hall’s website on Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Steven Isserlis has had many distinguished concert and recording partnerships over the years. But his new one with the boundlessly talented Mishka Rushdie Momen is something else. Twenty-eight, funded by the Henle Foundation, she studies currently at the Kronberg Academy as part of András Schiff’s Performance Programme for Young Pianists. She’s also worked with Richard Goode and previously with Joan Havill and Imogen Cooper at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. An artist of strikingly individual voice and palpably charismatic temperament, fire, poetry, reflection, a willingness to dream, go into her make-up. Then there’s the quality of her sound and touch. She gets the bass end of a piano to speak with velvet, throaty fullness, savouring the spectrum, each note prepared yet spontaneous, infinitely sensual. Mid-range harmonies are cosseted, the higher registers sing with a rounded dolcissimo – fanciful, elegant, the forte attacks never hard or percussive. Very special, very distinctive.

At the Wigmore last June, stopping one in one’s tracks, she and Isserlis showed how Sonatas by Beethoven and Fauré ought to go. For this Slavic programme – the basis of a 2018 Hyperion recording by Isserlis and Olli Mustonen – the challenge was two Soviet monuments: Kabalevsky’s searing 1962 Cello Sonata and Shostakovich’s iconic D-minor from 1934. Mature, impassioned, luminous pianism. Hallmark intensity and facial dramatisation from Isserlis, every fevered gesture picturing deep responses within, a panorama of burning climaxes, vast structural spaces, teasing caprice, human loneliness, a manic reaching for the impossible. In between, the 1923 revision of Janáček’s Pohádka ‘sonata’ (1910), based on an epic by the Russo-Turkish “patriarch of the Golden Age” Vasily Zhukovsky, the composer’s lyricism and ardour releasing a rarefied reading shimmering in sound-prints. To close, in memory of the late Ivry Gitlis, an encore of tenderest calling, Rachmaninov’s Lied (Romance) in F-minor (1890).

Fluid, yielding ensemble of compatible naturalness, as involving to listen to as to watch. Soul-baring. Extraordinary.