Discovering Anastasia Kobekina

Pieces for Cello and Orchestra

Shostakovich (First Cello Concerto), Weinberg, Kovekin
Anastasia Kobekina, Kevin John Edusi, Berner Symphonieorchester
Claves Records – Claves 50-1901 (CD – 2019)



Anastasia Kobekina – cello, baroque cello
Vincent Boccadoro – piano
Emmanuel Arakélian – harpsichord
Thibault Cauvin – guitar
Tristan Pereira – percussion
Mirare MIR604 (CD – 2022)


By Roy Gregory

In a musical world that is awash with talented violinists, the cello seems to have become becalmed. Ignore the UK-based (biased?) hoo-hah around Sheku Kannah-Mason and the Nottingham von Trapps and there’s a distinct lack of emerging talent, while many of the current, higher profile performers disappoint on one level or another: although Steven Isserlis has a few decent recordings to his name (I particularly like his Walton Concerto on Hyperion) his live performances are definitely suffering these days, while Sol Gabetta – so impressive on chamber music and early works, seemingly lacks the power for the larger, romantic repertoire. Her live Elgar (with Rattle and the BPO on Sony) is the notable exception, but the partnering Martinu serves to confirm the rule.

Well, now there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Young Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández, himself named for the great Casals, has an electrifying energy and presence, perhaps best captured on his performance of the Brahms Double Concerto and Clara Schumann Piano Trio with Anne-Sophie Mutter (for Sony and available on both CD and vinyl). But even Ferrández’ energy and vitality are eclipsed by the perfectly balanced combination of poise and vigour exuded by Anastasia Kobekina. As with any young performer (she’s barely 30 years old), recordings are thin on the ground, but two stand out and showcase her musical talent perfectly.

The Claves disc, recorded in 2019, combines three modern works: the popular and challenging Shostakovich First Cello Concerto (1959), the Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra (Op. 52 – 1956) from the increasingly popular Weinberg – definitely a flavour of the month in current classical recording circles, so Claves were arguably ahead of the curve – and Bacchants for Cello and Orchestra, a short piece written for the cellist by her composer father in 2018. It also manages to traverse the full expressive range of the instrument, with the Shostakovich Concerto alone embracing vitality and urgency, the aching sense of longing that characterises its Second Movement, the aspiring, reaching hope of the Cadenza and the explosive denouement of the finale. The recording achieves a beautiful balance between soloist and orchestra, helped by the body and substance that Kobekina generates from her instrument.

As unfamiliar as it is, the Weinberg is a very welcome discovery. It alternates between the lilting and lyrically reflective and more urgently joyous, dance-like figures. At just short of 18 minutes and six sections, it amounts to a string of related, evolving miniatures that develop with a sinuous grace that in turn makes for an extremely accessible and enjoyable piece. The structure and development is clear and beautifully balanced, Kobekina’s vibrant cello investing the gently pulsing rhythms of the slower sections with a physical vitality that almost seems to be bottled up, just waiting for the energetic agility of the faster passages. The release is palpable and the joy in the playing a joy to experience.