Christoph Croisé — Debut CD with Oxana Shevchenko
Prokofiev, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Popper
Media Review / Listening Diary 2015-08-31
2015-08-31 — Original posting
2015-09-24 — Added link for hardcopy CD purchase
2016-08-01 — Brushed up for better readability
After the concert at the Lucerne Festival on 2015-08-27, I seized the opportunity to purchase a hard copy of the debut CD for Christoph Croisé debut CD (initially only available as MP3-download from online shops) that he recorded together with Oxana Shevchenko. And I thought I’d follow up with a short posting about this CD:
Visions — Compositions by Prokofiev, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, and Popper
Quartz Classics (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 2015
Booklet 20 pp. (de/en) — Note that amazon currently only offers downloads (MP3), without the booklet; the hardcopy CD can be purchased from JPC.de
I have written about the two artists on my concert review. More detail about their biography can be found on their personal Web sites, both for Christoph Croisé as well as for Oxana Shevchenko. Also, two of the compositions — marked with *** below — on this debut CD were featured in last week’s concert during this year’s Lucerne Festival. I will not discuss these works again in this post, nor details of their interpretation:
Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953) — Cello Sonata in C major, op.119 ***
This sonata was featured in the concert in Lucerne and discussed in my review; on this CD, it comprises three tracks (total duration: 26’18”):
- Andante grave — Moderato animato (12’18”)
- Moderato — Andante dolce (5’20”)
- Allegro, ma non troppo — Andantino (8’42”)
An excellent sonata, absolutely beautiful music! Listening to this from CD can’t be a full substitute for hearing it live, in concert, as you miss the atmosphere. Christoph Croisé is playing a wonderful instrument (Mattio Goffriller, Venice, 1712). The recording also can’t show the interaction of that instrument with the acoustics of the concert venue. On the other hand, there are very few seats in any concert hall where one can enjoy the transparency of the CD sound. Here, you get you every detail of both the cello playing, as well as Oxana’s excellent accompaniment.
The recording is excellent in sound, spatial resolution and transparency, and of course in the playing in both parts: perfect for all practical purposes. It may well be that in the live concert there is one or the other missing note (I didn’t notice any during the concert, frankly). This would of course be corrected on the CD. But for all I can tell (from memory), the playing in the concert was pretty equivalent to the performance on CD. According to the artists, a video recording of the concert should soon be available via YouTube; once that is the case, I’ll add that video to my concert review (provided sharing it is allowed).
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) — Cello Sonata No.1 in E minor, op.38
This is the first one of two cello sonatas by Johannes Brahms, featuring three movements (total duration: 28’09”):
- Allegro non troppo (14’35”)
- Allegretto quasi Menuetto — Trio (6’20”)
- Allegro (7’16”)
Another highlight in the cello literature, composed 1862 – 1865. I could duplicate the above comments about the recording and the playing by the two artists, etc. — but I’ll rather save that for a comparison with other recordings, in an upcoming blog post. Let me just state: this recording seems to be absolutely on a par with the top recordings on the market!
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) — Pezzo Capriccioso, op.62
Tchaikovsky’s “Pezzo capriccioso” (duration on this CD: 6’58”) is a largely melancholic piece. It features two highly virtuosic sections in the second half: a brilliant showpiece in that part, but also featuring lyrical aspects. I can save my words here (mostly), because this piece was recorded on video and is available on YouTube, see below. With this, you can see and hear for yourself how the artists are playing and cooperating.
Video vs. CD
One certainly also gets a good idea about the quality of the instrument, even though the sound of the video is not as good and transparent as on the CD. I should point out, though, that the video sound track is of course not the recording on the CD, and there are subtle differences between the two:
- The video is closer to a concert situation. The playing (especially on the cello) is slightly more impulsive, with maybe a little show element at the very end (last note for the cello)?
- The CD sound is substantially better, clearer, more resolved spatially, more transparent. It does more justice to the piano accompaniment, i.e., there is more focus on the piano, where one can enjoy much more detail than on the video. I also get the impression that the CD is more carefully following the score (no show element on the last note!).
- In CD recordings, artists are certainly aware of the fact that listeners can “focus in” and re-listen almost ad infinitum. This exposes the tiniest of deficiencies, especially without the “distraction” of the visual part. So, there is likely a tendency to play more carefully in a studio recording like this. I did note that in the first, fast spiccato passage on the CD, the cello momentarily loses a tiny bit of momentum / drive (at least, compared to the video). That’s hardly noticeable and barely worth mentioning, though: just the ubiquitous hair in the soup. Either the playing was a tad “defensive”, or, more likely, a short passage was cut in from a slightly slower take? Note that the final (shorter) spiccato passage does not lose momentum at all.
Other interpretations on YouTube
I compared the video with a few “contenders” (young cellists); I did not look for recordings with the “big names”, but this seems to be a popular piece to show off at competitions. In any case, in my quick search, I could not find a recording that comes close to Christoph Croisé’s. I find him more virtuosic than most. At the same time, in my opinion, he has the best intonation, combined with the most “natural” vibrato.
Niccolò Paganini (1782 – 1840) — Variations on a theme from Rossini’s “Mosè in Egitto” ***
This is the second piece (duration on the CD: 8’33”) that was also featured in last week’s concert. The comments above on the Prokofiev sonata equally apply to this composition. Also here: according to the artists, a video recording of the concert should soon be available via YouTube; once that is the case, I’ll add that video to my concert review (provided sharing it is possible).
David Popper (1843 – 1913) — Dance of the Elves, op.39
The final composition on the CD, the “Dance of the Elves”, op.39, by David Popper is a short, virtuosic fun piece. A short, but relentless spiccato parforce run (duration on the CD: 2’35”). It’s a typical encore in a concert. I was betting with myself that they would play this in the concert last week, but I was wrong! Needless to say, the playing here is excellent, as throughout this CD.
To summarize: I can only congratulate Christoph Croisé for this excellent debut CD, and Oxana Shevchenko for her superb accompaniment! The CD receives my recommendation, without any reservation!
Below, I have added the YouTube recording of Tchaikovsky’s “Pezzo capriccioso”, op.62 that I mentioned above. I also include the video trailer for this CD. As a “bonus track”, I added the video with Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in D major, op.102/2, which they appear to have recorded in the same session as the Tchaikovsky. You’ll find more recordings by Christoph Croisé and Oxana Shevchenko via their respective YouTube channels (e.g., via the recommendations at the end of the videos below).