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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Violin Concerto No.1 in A Minor, op.99 (1948) [37:03]
Violin Sonata, op.134 (1969) [30:19]
Leila Josefowicz (violin)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
John Novacek (piano)
rec. 11, 13 January 2006, Symphony Hall, Birmingham (Concerto); 25-26 March 2006, The American Academy of Arts and Letters (Sonata)
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62997-2 [67:22]


I know it’s the significant Shostakovich anniversary this year but it is a little strange, to say the least, when a company releases two recordings of his violin concerto no.1, one hard on the heels of the other and then announces it is ceasing record production altogether! The two discs in question, it is true, are not exactly the same since Daniel Hope’s had both Shostakovich violin concertos whilst Josefowicz’s has the first and the violin sonata. 

When I reviewed the Hope disc a couple of months ago I nominated it for Disc of the Month, I was so impressed (see review).  I was impressed with this performance too though Josefowicz does not quite match the electrifying nature of Hope’s playing but of course it’s all a matter of taste as I’ve read that others think differently.  Josefowicz certainly produces a sweet tone, particularly in the opening movement with the CBSO accompanying her with the necessary degree of delicate phrasing in this gentle beginning to one of the great violin concertos of the 20th century.  Josefowicz is an extremely intelligent interpreter who has stated that she would never perform any work without having lived with it for at least a year. This shows, as does her undoubted admiration for the work.  Her playing in the lyrical third movement, for example, is quite beautiful and her cadenza is very persuasive.  The final movement is brought off with panache though in a less dynamic way than in Hope’s recording.

The Violin Sonata, a late work from 1969, is Shostakovich’s only sonata for violin and piano and one of the major chamber works of his final years.  Like much of his writing in this period the music is sparse but minutely calculated and supremely constructed.  In this work both players rise to the occasion and I’ve never heard it better performed; it is the finer offering of the two works on this disc. 

This is a fine coupling and no-one should hesitate in buying it. If both concertos are required then, for me at least, Daniel Hope’s disc is the obvious choice.

Steve Arloff


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