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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77/99 (1947-48) [36:08]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in C sharp minor, Op. 129 (1967) [32:01]
Christian Tetzlaff (violin)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds
rec. Helsinki Music Centre, Helsinki, Finland, 27-28, 30 November 2013
ONDINE ODE1239-2 [68:23]

This disc was already reviewed here by Stephen Greenbank and I see no reason to disagree with him especially concerning the sound.

I have heard a number of accounts of these concertos over the years, but none that present the works so clearly and realistically. The balance between the soloist and the orchestra could not be improved upon and one becomes aware of all kinds of detail in the orchestral part, which are not noticeable in other recordings. I also agree that the benchmarks for these two concertos must be those of their dedicatee, David Oistrakh. Of the several recordings Oistrakh made of the Concerto No. 1, my favourite remains the one he made with the New York Philharmonic under Dmitri Mitropoulos (Sony/CBS). For me the stereo account with Maxim Shostakovich on EMI does not have the same degree of excitement that the earlier one has. A third performance, recorded shortly before the one with Mitropoulos, was with the Leningrad Philharmonic under Mravinsky on Melodiya. That also brought out the anguish in the score very well, but was let down by the cruder recording. I have heard only one account of the Concerto No. 2 with Oistrakh and that was too many years ago to really remember it. I know I did not think the concerto measured up to the first one, but have changed my mind as more recent recordings of that work appeared.

As much as I considered Oistrakh’s recordings as benchmarks, I have since found Maxim Vengerov’s accounts with Mstislav Rostropovich (Warner) to challenge their supremacy. Some of this has to do with the latter’s up-to-date stereo recordings, but also they capture the sheer Russianness of these works nearly as well as Oistrakh. Vengerov’s performances are indeed powerful, dark and brooding, as required, and with palpable emotional involvement.

For somewhat lighter performances, slightly more distantly recorded, I have also admired those of Lydia Mordkovitch with Neeme Järvi and the Scottish National Orchestra (Chandos). The new ones here by Christian Tetzlaff resemble those of Mordkovitch more than Vengerov’s in their lighter, cleaner approach to the concertos. Their backing by the Helsinki Philharmonic and John Storgårds, on the other hand, is almost as powerful and exciting as Rostropovich’s for Vengerov. So, this sets up a rather different equation and in their own way these performances are just as convincing as the others. Furthermore, as I mentioned above, the sound here sets a new standard.

Although my allegiance to Vengerov is retained, I am happy to welcome these new accounts as viable alternatives. They are spectacularly well performed and recorded.

Leslie Wright

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank

Masterwork Index: Shostakovich violin concertos