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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35 (1933) [21:58]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102 (1957) [19:54]
Three Fantastic Dances, Op. 5 (1922) [3:24]
Cristina Ortiz (piano)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Berglund
rec. September 1975, Guildhall, Southampton. ADD

This is a reissue of a reissue, the programme having appeared in a Brilliant Classics box set (see review), which was ‘strongly recommended’ by Terry Barfoot. Indeed, this is a classic EMI recording (ASD3081), and seen by many as something of a reference. My own musical DNA has been pre-programmed by that Classics for Pleasure Dmitri Alexeev and mixed artists version which we wore out in its briefer cassette form, but has been available with an expanded programme on CD for a while now (see review).
The Ortiz/Berglund performances are vibrantly recorded, and you can pretty much ignore the 1975 vintage as regards sound quality. Perhaps the strings aren’t quite as glossy or the stereo separation quite as wide and transparent as some digital recordings, but with these pieces it’s all about the sense of life behind the notes, and the musicians here are as eloquent an impassioned as you could wish for.
If I was standing in the record shop and you were humming and hawing about which version to choose, then my advice would be to take Alexeev et al. There are two main reasons for this, and one or two minor ones. If you check the timings of the movements in the piano concertos, you’ll see Alexeev is shorter in most, and this is reflected in tighter and generally more exciting all-round performances. Philip Jones as solo trumpet in the Piano Concerto No. 1 is also not to be ignored, the poor soloist with Ortiz doesn’t even get a mention. Despite a gorgeous Andante in the Piano Concerto No. 2, the slow movements are just that much more atmospheric with the CfP album which has the edge in terms of absolute recording quality. The filler Fantastic Dances Op. 5 are intriguing little early pieces, but you have so much more music at 72:49 that the choice is, alas, what the ‘cool folks’ these days are calling a ‘no brainer’.
Of the minor points, the transition between the Lento and finale of the Piano Concerto No. 1 includes a wee break which shouldn’t be there. This is like the gap you get between tracks when listening on some MP3 players, and while it might seem a small point it does disturb the flow of the music and is certainly annoying and unnecessary here. There is also only about a 5 second gap between the two concerti, which could easily have been just a little longer.
Cristina Ortiz and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra play their socks off throughout in this recording, and as a budget choice it has much to recommend it. In the same price bracket I’m afraid it is however beaten by Dmitri Alexeev by every measure and standard, though I have to admit it is nice to have Cristina Ortiz’s performances available once again as a single disc.
Dominy Clements