Schelomo (‘Solomon’) grew from a project to set verses from the book of Ecclesiastes but Bloch later opted for a purely instrumental realisation. The cello takes on the king’s personality, meditating that ‘All is vanity’, the orchestra sometimes appearing to reflect these melancholy thoughts, at others portraying the barbaric splendour of Solomon’s court. Natalie Clein’s performance concentrates, most affectingly, on the atmosphere of deep introspection. Other cellists, Piatigorsky, for instance, have projected a more painful intensity but Clein’s is thoughtful, subtle and satisfying, well supported by the passionate and spirited BBC Scottish SO.
Clein is highly sensitive to the emotional import of Bloch’s modal inflections; this enables her to find exactly the right character for each of the scenes From Jewish Life. Christopher Palmer’s arrangement for strings and harp of the original piano part is expertly done, although one misses the contrast of tone colour at the points where the piano takes over the melody. Voice in the Wilderness has a most original form. Each of its six sections is introduced by the orchestra, after which the cello enters to meditate on the ideas we’ve just heard. Natalie Clein encompasses all the work’s varied character and demands while retaining an air of polish in her playing. Her chords in the vigorous, energetic third section, for example, remain full and rounded, without appearing over-careful. The Bruch, too, receives a lovely performance, with Clein bringing out the different colour of each of the cello’s strings and the orchestra effecting most beautifully the transition from sombre to heavenly.