> Shostakovich - Strauss [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat Op. 107
Cello Concerto No. 2 in G, Op. 126.
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Romanze in F, AV75.
Arto Noras (cello); Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Ari Rasilainen.
Recorded at NRK Broadcasting Hall, Oslo in April 1997. [DDD]
WARNER APEX 0927 40604-2 [73'53]


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Originally issued in 1998 on Finlandia 3984-21441-2, this is one of the more successful of Warner's 'Apex' series. There is no doubting Noras's technique (see also his recording of Penderecki Cello Concertos on Finlandia 8573-85575-2, with the Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by the composer) and, given the price of the reissue, no-one will be seriously disappointed.

The first thing to strike the listener is the up-front recording. It takes a little getting used to, but it nevertheless carries sufficient depth to convince in the final analysis, whilst still revealing many felicities of the score.

Unfortunately, the important solo horn player in the First Concerto is not credited, whose contribution is strong and forthright in the first movement, and who presents a final 'whoop' to the final (sounding) E flat with the appropriate abandon. The highlight of this account is the cello cadenza which constitutes the third movement, where Noras seems to relish his freedom. Rasilainen's accompaniment is somewhat workaday.

The Second Concerto is by far the most problematical of the two and receives far fewer performances. Rostropovich on BBC Legends BBCL4073-2 (with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Colin Davis) is streets ahead. Noras is far too literal for the initial 'Largo,' and Rasilainen does not encourage the horns to be raucous enough in the second movement ('Allegretto'). In the hands of Noras and Rasilainen, the finale meanders as if they have not grasped this music interpretatively yet.

The Richard Strauss 'Romanze' is a peaceful way to end the disc which hardly squares with the brutalities of the Shostakovich. Noras plays affectingly and lyrically, if without imbuing any special aura to the music.

Colin Clarke

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