The strongly emotive musical aura of Bloch’s 1916 Hebraic rhapsody Schelomo seems ideally suited to Natalie Clein’s impassioned style of cello playing. As one might expect, Clein delivers a powerfully committed performance, but also manages to avoid over-indulgence, negotiating the peaks and troughs of the music's volatile emotional language with a clear sense of direction. Undoubtedly, Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra play a vital role in this process. Volkov brings a welcome transparency to Bloch’s languorous instrumentation in the reflective sections, while the raging torrents of the orchestral tuttis have rarely sounded more highly charged.
Voice in the Wilderness, composed 20 years later, pursues a similarly exotic style, though this six-movement symphonic poem ostensibly covers a wider range of moods, from the solemnity and despair of the opening, to the calm contemplation of the close. Clein is an admirable advocate of the score, offering a particularly atmospheric account of the cadenza just before the final Allegro giocoso. However the musical ideas are nothing like as memorable as those in Schelomo.
The two other works on this beautifully recorded disc present the cello against a more restrained orchestral canvas. Christopher Palmer’s sensitive instrumentation for strings and harp of Bloch ’s From Jewish Lifeprovides a wonderfully still backdrop to Clein’s eloquent rendition of its three movements.
No less compelling is Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, where Clein’s phrasing of the opening is finely shaded, and free of any hectoring quality sometimes heard in this work.