Shostakovich is one
of the greatest composers of the 20th
century, yet because of his dealings
- or, sometimes, lack of them - with
the Soviet regime, he and his music
remain enigmatic. Commentators have
not been able to get beneath the surface
of the music to illuminate his true
thoughts and the mainspring of his creativity.
Good luck to them; but many, probably
even a majority, of those who are uplifted
by Shostakovich’s music enjoy it without
going beyond its dramatic energy and,
in so many cases, its sheer lyricism.
The two works here recorded in a "live"
performance of 13 November 2004, will
appeal to both types of Shostakovich
lover. Each should get hours of pleasure
from this generously filled disc.
The Symphony No. 12
is subtitled "The Year 1917 – in
Memory of Lenin". Is it a genuine
tribute to Lenin or is it something
more subtle? Probably it is the latter,
but its plethora of gorgeous melody
and energetic rhythms comes up as fresh
as paint in this committed performance.
The London Shostakovich Orchestra was
formed in 1999 mainly from younger players,
whose freshness and enthusiasm certainly
shine through here.
That said, many people
will seek out the disc for the Second
Cello Concerto. Written, like its predecessor,
for Rostropovich, it has never quite
achieved the popularity of the First.
As with the 12th Symphony,
lyricism and "deeper meaning"
compete for the listener’s attention.
Here it finds a passionate advocate
in Jonathan Ayling who (like the orchestra)
makes up in dedication what he (so far)
lacks in experience. His commitment
carries the listener along, especially
in the sardonic middle movement, so
bitingly characteristic of its composer,
whether he is in lighter or more serious
vein. The lyrical invention of the longer
outer movements remains at least as
much in the memory.
This is, as I say,
a "live" performance, in St.
Cyprian’s Church, London, NW1, with
all the problems that raises for the
performers who cannot correct wrong
notes and for the recording engineer
who is unable to experiment with the
positioning of microphones or indeed
of the performers. For me these considerations
are more than compensated for by the
sense of occasion conveyed by this very
Dunelm has also recorded
the London Shostakovich Orchestra performing
the same composer’s 4th,
6th, 7th and 11th
Symphonies, 1st Cello Concerto
(again with Jonathan Ayling) and 2nd
Piano Concerto. Shostakovich devotees
may wish to explore them, too.
Philip L. Scowcroft
an alternative coupling of the two cello
concertos - review