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ClassicsOnline Home » SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Violin Sonata (Melnikov, Faust, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Currentzis)
Top marks - and no mistake
With the fine efforts of Bernstein, Previn and Eugene List basking in the soft autumn light of the historic display cabinet, many a fine recording of the two piano concertos have appeared over the last twenty years, the ones by Bronfman, Marshev, Hamelin, and - lately - Helmchen to be found at the top of my recently updated list of front-runners. This disc, which to boot benefits from the addition of the second violin sonata, however, cannot be ignored and must be awarded its rightful pedestal in the same luxurious penthouse department.
Alexander Melnikov, by now firmly established as a first-class interpreter of Shostakovich (thanks to his brilliant set of the 24 Preludes and Fugues), finds the pianistic equilibrism for the fast-paced outer movements spot on (less overtly showy than Hamelin, but still pretty impressive at that!), while the slow ones give us a rare and rarefied atmosphere of melancholy introspection that Shostakovich avoided in his own recordings, but which is undeniably there and should by right be addressed. The recording quality is absolutely first class as well, warm but, for once these days, not bass-heavy with a fine and sensitive spotlighting of the solo instruments. On that note, a particularly hearty "well done!" should go to Jeroen Berwaerts for his trumpet playing in the first concerto, truly a soloist performance deserving of a mention on the front cover - which, strangely enough, it hasn't.
I am not particularly partial to the otherwise much publicized violin of Isabelle Faust, having found her input on the recent CD-set of Beethoven sonatas a rather underwhelming experience - especially when compared to the show-stopping simultaneous issue featuring Frank Braley and Renaud Capucon. In Shostakovich, though, it seems she has found her proper sea legs, and her handling of the sonata ("despair set to music") is both empathic, moving and in places truly desperate, while the histrionics so often found in recordings of this music are wisely avoided.
In short, superbly played concerto performances, aptly presenting the broader view, and a sonata displaying an appropriate depressiveness but giving hysteria a wide berth.more....
By David Fanning
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SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / V...