Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings Op.35 [21:27]
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 Op.102 [17:48]
Concertino for 2 Pianos Op. 94 [8:49]
Tarantella for 2 Pianos [1:19]
Anna Vinnitskaya (piano)
Ivan Rudin (piano 2); Tobias Willner (trumpet)
Kremerata Baltica/Anna Vinnitskaya
Winds of Staatskapelle Dresden/Omer Meir Wellber
rec. 2014, Hochschule fur Musik Carl Maria von Weber, Dresden.
ALPHA CLASSICS 203 [50:00]

Anna Vinnitskaya has joined Alpha Classics and her first recording for the label is devoted to the concertos of Shostakovich. She performed the Second Piano Concerto for the first time at the age of eleven and was struck by the music’s very optimistic nature. In her later years she started to understand everything else that is concealed behind the fašade of much of Shostakovich’s music.

In the days of LP records a coupling of the 2 piano concertos was sufficient, running at just under 40 minutes. In the CD era this isn’t acceptable and even with the two worthwhile fillers included here the 50 minutes on offer isn’t especially good value for money.

The interpretations of the piano concertos are at their best in the slow movements, both of which are presented with flowing tempi. The temptation to over-romanticise the music is avoided. The beautiful andante of the second concerto can often become over-sentimental and syrupy but not so here. It is tastefully romantic and very enjoyable. Vinnitskaya also does an admirable job in her direction of the orchestra from the piano in the first concerto. The more energetic passages in the concerto are delivered faultlessly but there is something lacking here. That final hint of pushing the music to the limit isn’t there. It’s impeccable but all rather safe. The music finally bursts into life towards the end of the finale when the shackles are finally removed. There’s some dazzling trumpet playing to be heard and all of a sudden there is the illusion of a live concert performance taking place. Maybe the acoustic doesn’t help. There is a lack of bite and the trumpet is wanting in presence. The second concerto has more energy and drive, especially in the humorous third movement, and it is the finer of the two performances. Personally I would still go for the brilliant Dmitri Alexeev, beautifully accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra, in this repertoire. The recording has tremendous impact. Alternatively there’s the 1961 Eugene List coupling on Westminster. OK, there’s some unpolished orchestral playing on the Westminster but it’s so full of life and vigour with an inspired List really going for it.

The fillers on the new Alpha disc are appropriate, offering as they do more Shostakovitch in his playful, lighter vein. The playing is fully committed and presented with far more bite than the concertos. This is fabulous, entertaining music but unfortunately the two piano concertos are the backbone of the CD. The concertos are well played here in decent enough sound but unfortunately you can get better elsewhere in terms of artistic achievement and value for money.

John Whitmore

Previous review: Dan Morgan

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