Concert review: Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck, UoA Theatre

By William Dart

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Gifted Sakakushev-von Bismarck shines in recital with De Pledge.

Cellist Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck treated the audience to a superbly varied programme. Photo / Supplied
Cellist Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck treated the audience to a superbly varied programme. Photo / Supplied

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra has had some distinguished principal cellists over the last decades; Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck, the present incumbent, is one of the best.

His solo contributions in APO concerts have given unmitigated joy; on Sunday, in recital with pianist Stephen De Pledge, he revealed his full artistry.

While out-of-the-way repertoire was expected, Sakakushev-von Bismarck had chosen astutely, roving through the last century, giving us the overlooked alongside the more familiar.

The opening pieces from Bloch's From Jewish Life revealed a rare musical communion between the two men. De Pledge provided the perfect backdrop for the heart-stopping Sakakushev-von Bismarck, with his beautifully gauged vibrato, the emotionally charged bent notes creating their own hebraic blues.

Martinu's Second Sonata of 1941 is a work of the war years, and perhaps we could hear this in the restless harmonies of its Largo, as De Pledge's piano brought us back, over and over again, to the minor.

Sakakushev-von Bismarck's virtuosity was unswerving in the chromatic dashes of the first movement, his dialogues with De Pledge heart-rending, and what better way to end the jazz-tinged Finale than with a playful cadenza?

After interval, a 1945 Sonata by Polish-Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg received what is possibly its first New Zealand performance.

Here one was struck by Sakakushev-von Bismarck's glorious lyricism in the first movement, and drama of almost stalking urgency in the second - Weinberg suffered miserably under the Soviet regime.

Poulenc's 1948 Sonata required quite a change of gear after the weighty works that preceded it, and the two players touched us deeply in its second movement Cavatine.

Here we sensed the subtlety of music that effortlessly and mysteriously spans from the salons of Saint-Saens to the sound stages of Hollywood - interestingly, it was in 1948 that Poulenc's music turned up on the soundtrack to Hitchcock's Rope.

The Scherzo too was lean and witty, the two men turning on a centime to catch its delicious mercurial shifts. The encore, after such a demanding and emotion-provoking programme, was generous and a flamboyantly rendered Dvorak was just the right after-dinner treat.

Who: Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck and Stephen De Pledge
Where: University of Auckland Music Theatre

- NZ Herald

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