(1925-1958) enjoyed a tremendous reputation as a violin virtuoso
from a very early age. Alas, like his American counterpart
Michael Rabin, death claimed him at an equally early age when
he succumbed to lung cancer at only thirty-three. Thankfully,
he left behind a number of recordings, many of them from live
concerts, and they are now being lovingly restored and preserved
by his son, the equally respected violinist, Dmitry. This disc
is the fifth volume of the series and contains superb concert
recordings of two of the twentieth century’s major violin concertos.
This being a Shostakovich
year (2006), there has been no shortage of recordings of this
famous composer’s music hitting the shelves, and for me, this
trend has provided ample opportunity to listen anew, and to
re-evaluate his work. I must say that it is been an extremely
The sense of melancholy
that is prevalent in Shostakovich’s music has been discussed
to death, and we are all pretty much aware of the trying circumstances
through which the composer lived most of his life. I shan’t
belabor the fact that his music is often full of turmoil and
angst, and that much of what he wrote was in one way or another
some veiled form of protest against the totalitarian Soviet
state. What I have instead found as I have slowly worked my
way through a large part of Shostakovich’s output, is a deep
sense of inner beauty, a way with melody and harmony that beneath
the outward shell of anger and distress, came to the surface
as radiant serenity and conviction.
The violin concerto
of 1948 is no exception to these discoveries. Yes, at times
it is a dark piece of music and there is richness to the writing
that reflects the composer’s difficult circumstances. But if
you set the man’s tribulations aside for a bit and simply listen
to the music for its own sake, you will find long passages
of sweeping beauty that not only induce empathy, but move you
deeply in their honest expressions of the human condition.
the other hand seemed not to have the same emotional burdens
as his contemporary. He was able to play along with the authorities
in such a way as to keep the powers that be happy and still
compose music that was full of an affirming, joyous spirit.
From the opening, rollicking theme of the violin concerto,
we are set dancing by its intensely rhythmic melodic figures.
The slow movement is at times poetic and at others rhapsodic,
and the virtuoso finale is breathtaking.
early passing is truly a loss to the world of music, and we
must be grateful for these volumes of his work. He plays with
remarkable precision and intonation, and a warm and sensuous
tone. Interpretively, he is a master, and the deep sense of
commitment and passion that he brings to the music swiftly
belies his youth. Although these recordings show their age
a bit, and the live recording setting is not totally ideal,
we still are quickly caught up in the masterful music making
that is on display here. These may not be the audiophile first
choice of many readers, but these are performances that are
not to be missed, regardless of your taste for sonic perfection.
Notes are mostly
biographical, and the packaging is rather pedestrian, but no
matter. There are lots of sources to read concerning the works
and their composers. This is a disc that has accomplished what
any good recording should: it has set me to seeking out more
of the same.
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From Ocean’s Floor
Of Innocence and Experience