Verdict: "Alexander Ivashkin investigates the state of the contemporary Russian cello concerto and finds it thriving."
For the final decade of the last century, we were privileged to have Alexander Ivashkin living and working in this country.
The Russian cellist was an inspiration for his students at Canterbury University and put New Zealand on the world cello map by launching the biennial Adam International Cello Festival.
Moving to Europe in 1999, Ivashkin established himself as a world expert on Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, building up an impressive list of publications and recordings.
In Ivashkin's extensive discography, a small selection of CDs comes from the local Alma Classics label including last year's bizarre crossover album Pacific Voyage, which has him jamming with ukulele and taonga puoro.
Russian Cello Concertos 1960-2000 finds him on firmer ground, with a collection of live recordings made between 2000 and 2006.
This is, on the whole, sombre music, yet there is an elegiac intensity when the strings of the Geneva Chamber Orchestra cluster around the cellist in Tod ist ein Langer Schlaf, Edison Denisov's tribute to Haydn.
Rodion Shchedrin's Parabola Concertante explores the struggle of faith against oppression, which is caught in the very sound of the piece, as Ivashkin's seagull-like wails on cello vie with stark string marches and sometimes sinister solos from the uncredited Novgorod timpanist.
Schnittke's Dialogue for cello and seven instrumentalists is the most immediate of all the four works, thanks to focused playing from Montreal's Ensemble Pentaedre.
The revelation is Disappearance by Alexander Vutin, an important Russian composer who has made little impact beyond his native land.