I write this review on Holocaust Memorial Day for a recording dedicated by Raphael Wallfisch to the memory of the many members of his family who perished in the Holocaust. His mother, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, was, as a cellist herself, put into the Auschwitz concentration camp women’s orchestra in 1943 and spared the gas chambers simply because she could play. Later, having survived both Auschwitz and Belsen, she made her way to London where she met and married the pianist Peter Wallfisch and helped to create the English Chamber Orchestra.
Here Raphael and his son, conductor Benjamin, offer us not only two of the greatest works for the cello by Ernest Bloch, but also music by André Caplet and Maurice Ravel, all of it having Jewish connections. The two Bloch works are Voice in the Wilderness and Solomon (Schelomo in the Hebrew), the first being six meditations for cello and orchestra and Schelomo (written 21 years earlier) thoughts on the Book of Ecclesiaties. Also included are Epiphanie, three movements telling the story of the Adoration of the Magi, by Caplet, and Ravel’s setting of the Hebrew prayer Kaddish.
These works, accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales are given wonderfully sympathetic performances by an artist who has known the Bloch pieces all his life in a really splendid recording in Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall by Nimbus Records - excellent in every respect!