This live recording is the Oslo Philharmonic’s first release under its new
artistic director Vasily Petrenko. A Shostakovich specialist, Petrenko has
already recorded the complete symphonies with his Royal Liverpool
Philharmonic Orchestra for Naxos. Petrenko is joined by Norwegian cellist
Truls Mørk who previously recorded the Shostakovich cello concertos in 1995
with the London Philharmonic conducted by Mariss Jansons on Virgin
Shostakovich’s two cello concertos were written for his Soviet compatriot
Mstislav Rostropovich in the 1950s and 1960s. This was in the midst of the
severe artistic constraints imposed by the authorities in Soviet Russia.
Both concertos demand technical virtuosity and profound emotional expression
from the soloist. This is juxtaposed with orchestral writing that is both
considerable and challenging.
Overall this is a splendidly played release, high on tonal beauty but
I ended up wanting more potency and greater emotional edge particularly
when it came to that vital sense of foreboding and dark anguish. Petrenko
obtains fine responsive playing yet I sense that a care for precision
has come at the expense of generating sufficient passion. The engineers
have produced vividly clear and well balanced sound. It was pleasing
to read the helpful and interesting liner-notes.
The finest recording I have heard of Shostakovich’s pair of Cello Concertos
is played with wonderful command by Heinrich Schiff with the Symphonieorchester
des Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by the composer’s son Maxim Shostakovich.
Impressively recorded for Philips at the Herkulessaal, Munich in 1984
this version is strong on formidably powerful expression and deep intensity.
The emotional cross-currents of these absorbing accounts from Schiff
are compelling in every way. I should also mention the beautifully played
1993 accounts from Mischa Maisky with the LSO under Michael Tilson Thomas.
These were recorded at Abbey Road, London on Deutsche Grammophon. Maisky
plays marvellously but lacks Schiff’s sheer depth of torment. Of real
interest is the playing of soloist Sol Gabetta with the Münchner Philharmoniker
under Lorin Maazel. This was recorded live in 2011 and 2008 at Philharmonie,
Munich on Sony Classical (No. 1) and RCA Red Seal (No. 2). Gabetta’s
playing is not as consistently fluid as that of Schiff, Rostropovich
or Maisky and there’s a slight unevenness in quality. That said his
performances contain episodes of genuine radiance.
In the First Concerto I have come to admire the totally committed playing
of the première recording – that by Rostropovich, made in 1959 at the
Broadwood Hotel, Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Orchestra under
Eugene Ormandy. I place this almost on a par with the Schiff. Rostropovich’s
wonderful-sounding digitally re-mastered on Sony Classical is far better
acoustically than the re-issued recording on Regis which I take to be
the same performance. In 1975 Rostropovich recorded the Second Concerto
with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa at Symphony Hall,
Boston. This recording, available on Deutsche Grammophon Eloquence catches
Rostropovich strangely lacking in emotional intensity compared to Schiff.
Ondine’s disc sets out well played readings but there are some stunning
Masterwork Index: Shostakovich