coupling of this CFP disc is not replicated by any other company
outside the EMI stable so comparisons are otiose except in relation
to the concertos.
these versions of the two Shostakovich piano concertos fall
a shade short of the exuberance and sheer brio of their full
price Hyperion counterpart they are much better than just creditable.
A fixture of the budget catalogue since their appearance on
Classics for Pleasure LP in the early 1980s they are well recorded
and sprightly. The hoarsely urgent edge given to the French
horns lodges in the memory. Alexeev is not, on this occasion,
quite the magician that Marc-André Hamelin is on Hyperion
CDA6742 but he has the necessary reserves of impudent humour
and outright romance to make the two concertos sing. He is however
more successful in the romantic stuff in the Second Concerto
than Hamelin. If on the other hand you are not allergic to a
rather grainy and close sound then do not miss the Hall of Fame
version of the Second Concerto from Bernstein (conductor and
pianist) on Sony.
Alexeev’s sympathy for the romantic vein stands him in good
stead in the swooning Tchaikovskianisms of The Assault on
Beautiful Gorky; not otherwise widely available.
have recently been working my way pleasurably through the splendid
Capriccio 7 CD box of the Shostakovich cinema music (CAP49533).
I can tell those who don’t know already that his film music,
when not leaning on satire, often takes on a hyper-Tchaikovskian
or even Russian nationalist mantle. You find much the same relaxed,
inclusive, expedient, catholic and professionally polished borrowing
of diverse styles in the contrast between the works of Alwyn
and Frankel where the crevasse between concert symphonic style
and silver screen language can be dramatically wide. The ‘jazz’
items and the Tahiti Trot originally partnered and added
contrasting zest to the Jansons/Philadelphia Eleventh Symphony
on EMI Classics 5556012. Jansons catches the composer’s pawky humour and,
if you were wondering, the lighter pieces are light on their
feet and not weighed down by the sumptuous flock and shagpile
associated with Philadelphia. They are in that sense comparable
with the Chailly/Concertgebouw Decca collections of the lighter
Shostakovich and Kuchar’s inexpensive three CD survey of the
film and dance music on Brilliant
Classics. The Marriner version of the ubiquitously popular
Gadfly music would not be my first version – just a little
soggy by comparison with Emin Khachaturyan’s vivid if shrill-sounding
recording (long-deleted EMI) or Grin’s more temperate Berlin
The identical coupling
can also be had on HMV Classics HMV5867652 although the packaging
seems less attractive than here. I have not been able to compare
the notes which in the case of this CFP are by Andrew Huth.
Given the 2005 copyright date they were probably first written
for the HMV Classics disc.
This is an engaging
single disc anthology of Shostakovich in lighter vein and all
at bargain price. It should win yet more friends for the composer
although if they then move to the symphonies they may find the
contrast a bit of a jolt.