Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in C sharp minor, Op. 129 (1967) [29:43]
Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141 (1971) [40:26]
David Oistrakh (violin)
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin
rec. 1967, Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory (violin concerto); 17 May 1974, Moscow Radio Concert Hall. ADD
ALTO ALC 1062 [70:21]
Regis and its associate labels are well worth following closely. While their historical operatic and aria revivals have come in for some stick in some quarters their harvest of Soviet music is admirable. Their licensing sources include Olympia, Sanctuary-ASV and Melodiya direct. With the present disc we are firmly in analogue territory. The leaflet cover is a bit cheesy but the recordings are classics and are very sound - red-blooded even. The name of Kondrashin might cause one or two of the faithful to falter. After all if you know of his Shostakovich through the BMG-Melodiya series of the late 1990s then you will probably associate him with harsh and scrawny sound. Not so in the later Aulos and Melodiya sets and not so here. We get instead a grown-up balance which treats dynamics with respect.
The Second Violin Concerto has the sort of atmosphere and patent concentration you could cut with a knife. This three movement work is raw, stark, pessimistic without being dismal and violent especially in the finale adagio-allegro. Listen to the dialogue between the violin and the brass benches. The emotional temperature rises in corrosive waves and acidic attack. The final fff thud is the one point at which the technology momentarily throws in the towel and distorts. The balance throughout the concerto is pretty natural.
Not so with the Symphony No. 15 which is from 1974 and is unremittingly close-up. The music-making is flighty, witty, brusque and serious. The quotations from Rossini and Wagner work startlingly well. The hoarse-coarse woodwind in the Allegretto is delightfully roughened and resinous. Not everything is a vitriolic for example the almost sentimental melody that caresses the ear at 12:45 in the finale. The mesmerising percussion pitter-patter of the last few moments, its chronometer references and the kettle drum motif create busy and pregnant tension. These performances have the feel of verisimilitude, of fidelity to the composer's wishes.
The recordings were made while the composer was alive so he may have been present for the sessions. The generously detailed notes are by Jeffrey Davis who is always good with Soviet material.
Rob Barnett
Atmosphere and concentration you could cut with a knife.