Sol Gabetta tells us in her notes that the title of her disc, ‘Prayer’, comes from her familiarity and identification with the piece (the first of Bloch’s suite From Jewish Life), as she has often used it as an encore at concerts and has found that many people in her audiences were moved by it. ‘This is music – like the rest of the programme,’ she says, ‘that is both sensual and reflective, and the feelings that Bloch’s music expresses are universal and know no boundaries between cultures and countries. What I see and hear is the mysterious, ardent, turbulent Jewish soul.’
She opens her recorded concert with From Jewish Life, played with great depth of feeling. Then follows Nigun(‘Improvisation’), another traditional Jewish religious melody, and again full of ardour. The Méditation hébraïque was written in 1924 and dedicated to Casals. It is introspective and thoughtful. But the most famous and familiar of Bloch’s compositions is the ‘rapsodie hébraïque’ Schelomo, heard here in a dedicated and powerful American performance directed by Leonard Slatkin, with great virtuosity demanded from both soloist and orchestra, as well as emotional intensity. Additionally, four excerpts are included from Shostakovich’s song-cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry, which describes traditional Jewish life in tsarist Russia. Finally we have the familiar Catalonian Song of the Birds, written with great personal feeling by Pablo Casals and played here with unforgettable lyrical intensity. The totally natural recording balance adds to the presence of the performers and this well-packaged and informative CD is well worth having.
By Ivan March