(b. 1980) is a very fine young cellist.
This new recording of the two Shostakovich
concertos shows him to great advantage.
He has all the virtuosity these
works demand; they were both written
for Rostropovich, remember. He also
has the insight of a much older
musician in his view of the works.
The two works couldn’t
be more different. The first is
bright and extrovert. It possesses
a haunting slow movement, a brilliant
cadenza given a movement all to
itself, and two very vital outer
movements. Almost as soon as it
was heard it was recorded by its
dedicatee and this performance is
still available: Sony BMG MHK 63327,
conducted by Eugene Ormandy – coupled
with the première recording
of the 1st Violin
Concerto with Oistrakh and Mitropoulos.
Both performances are essential
listening and set a benchmark for
Cello Concerto is much more
subdued. It’s imbued with resignation
and sadness. Apart from a short,
Russian dance of a scherzo, the
two outer movements are, in general,
withdrawn and elusive. A reasonably
sized orchestra is used in chamber
music combinations and there is
little respite from the continual
darkness. Unlike its partner, it
was some time before it was recorded,
again by the dedicatee, this time
with Ozawa and the Boston Symphony
Orchestra: Deutsche Grammophon 431
475 – there are also three other
Rostropovich recordings of the work
The most recent
performances I heard of these works
were by Tortelier and Mørk
in the EMI 3 CD set of Shostakovich’s
complete concertos (EMI CLASSICS
5 09428 2). I have to report that
Maslennikov is superior to the former
and more insightful than the latter.
Concerto has some fiendish passage-work
in the fast movements, not to mention
hair-raising multiple stoppings
whilst accompanying the solo horn.
Tortelier never sounded at home
here but Maslennikov is totally
in control. No matter what challenge
the composer throws at him he can
easily overcome the difficulties.
The performance of the slow movement
is restrained; the winsome first
theme is quite engaging in its simple
way. At the end, where the theme
is played in harmonics, and in duet
with the celesta (rather backwardly
balanced), the effect is quite magical.
Maslennikov handles the cadenza,
third, movement with ease – again
throwing off the difficulties with
aplomb. In the finale the orchestra
really comes into its own. I should
add that this is the clearest recording
of the orchestral accompaniment
I’ve ever heard. All caution is
thrown to the wind and this helter-skelter,
manic and wildly exuberant approach
really suits this music. This performance
is a triumph.
A quiet recitative
for the soloist opens the 2nd
Concerto to which Shostakovich
adds the darkest of woodwind sounds.
It’s all quite oppressive. From
this bleak start is built a long,
slow, movement, which is unrelenting
in its austerity. Maslennikov plays
with such intensity that he makes
you want to keep listening – discovering
each new turn of the music with
him. He creates a forward momentum
as we pass through the barren landscape.
The middle section, with its flecks
of woodwind sound, accompanied by
xylophone, is quite disturbing in
its ghostly fashion. The climax
is well built, the orchestra taking
charge with the soloist making pathetic
comments, only to give way to a
very strange cadenza accompanied
by bass drum. Then we’re back to
the music of the opening, revised
and revisited. It’s all profoundly
troubling, thanks, in no small part,
to an excellent performance, full
The scherzo is
given in a straightforward way,
which heightens the tensions and
makes the listener very uneasy.
The finale is another odd concoction.
There’s a twisted fanfare - the
kind of thing I always expect at
the moment when Shakespeare writes
a tucket is heard - a gentle
lullaby in 6/8 which always resolves
into a commonplace cadence and a
wild repetition of the scherzo’s
tune for full orchestra. The end
is quite unusual in that Shostakovich
recalls the percussion music from
the end of the middle movement of
the 4th Symphony.
Despite all these disparate elements
Shostakovich makes a very convincing
All in all, this
is a superb disk. Maslennikov displays
a strong technique and a fine sound.
He is especially enjoyable above
the stave. However, on occasion,
due to the excitement created the
value of rests is cut short as he
plunges onwards. In the last movement
of the 2nd Concerto
the important percussion parts (from
the 4th Symphony)
are far too distant. Indeed, some
of them were inaudible at the volume
I was playing the disk and this
allowed the full orchestra to really
let rip when necessary – small reservations.
from Maslennikov. Outstanding playing
from the North German Radio Symphony
Orchestra. Magnificent direction
from Christoph Eschenbach.