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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Shostakovich plays Shostakovich - 1955-57
From Jewish Poetry [24:14]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1957) [16:16]
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1957) [21:16]
Concertino for two pianos (1954) [8:03]
Piano Quintet Op. 57 (1940) [29:59]
Cello Sonata Op. 40 (1934) [24:21]
Preludes (2) Op. 34 (arr. violin and piano by Dmitri Tryganov) [5:00]
Preludes and Fugues Op. 87/5, 23, 3 (1950-53) [12:14]
Dmitri Shostakovich (piano)
Other performers listed below
rec. Moscow, 1955-57
PRAGA DIGITALS PRD250365-66 [69:04 + 73:06]

These recordings are Soviet mono analogue artefacts from 1957 with only the From Jewish Poetry songs from two years earlier. The two piano concertos join chamber works, song and pieces for solo piano.

The virtues of these lie in their vivid communicative power. In one case it can be just too much or at least it is in the case of the Second Piano Concerto which here was recorded red-hot off the press. Gauk and the composer at the piano flay this score within an inch of its life in the first and last movements. The orchestra must have been prostrate at the end. This is as fast and as ruthless as a sentimental work can get. When the composer recorded it in Paris for EMI just a year later he allowed himself a minute and more longer at 17:25; here it is 16:16. Bernstein for his classic CBS/Sony - still a very strong contender - takes 18:34. Hamelin on Hyperion takes 19:16, Alexeev 19:17 on CfP and Marshev on Danacord 21:09. There is brisk romance in the middle movement but it's never allowed to dawdle and no one is taking in the fragrance of the flowers. This reading has protean energy but it is a recreational choice when you fancy a manic change from the accustomed track.

It's very good to hear Shostakovich speaking from an era and environment that may be unfamiliar. The Samosud-conducted First Piano Concerto - complete with audience coughs - takes time to spread what it has to say. Josef Volovnik's trumpet has a nicely controlled Soviet warble. The Lento and Moderato are most tenderly, indeed romantically, handled. Indeed they are more effective than the classic Previn/Vacchiano recording. The Adagio into Allegretto, Concertino is played by father and son. It moves as a performance from grey walls into scurrying joy in lightning-strike virtuosity. The Allegretto sounds like a sketch-book for the outer movements of the Second Piano Concerto but without the coruscation of sparks. According to Praga's notes this is the only work on CD1 not to be recorded live.

Disc 1 starts with the eleven poems from Jewish Folk Poetry. These are cleanly recorded and quite magical; listen to the blend and not-quite-blend of Dorliak and Dolukhanova in Lament and Thoughtful mother. Sadly the booklet does not give the words. The milky-light tenor of Aleksei Maslennikov makes Song of Hardship caper on stony frozen feet and will have you looking over your shoulder given its freighted menace. He finds serenading bleakness in Winter but a more forthright serenading sentimentality in The good life - one can see Hvorostovsky enjoying this. The straight-from-the-shoulder recording shows signs of stress but only at a very few higher volume moments and these are not unduly worrying in the face of such singing.

Disc 2 starts with the dusky five-movement Piano Quintet written just one year before Germany invaded the USSR. It seems to speak from a very different world. There are many gentle moments and this performance is often softly spoken (Fugue - Adagio and Intermezzo - Lento). The composer is found in good sorts in the more vigorous episodes as in the Scherzo. This work and its apt performance is without this composer's scorch and vitriol. The Quintet is a good-humoured piece with a Gallic jaw-set. The even earlier Cello Sonata strides and skips along in much the same manner but with a touch more gloom in the Largo - just a touch and more excitement in the final Allegretto. Tryganov makes sweet and deftly executed capital from the four Preludes. These work superbly. They even outstrip the piano-only originals. That said the composer makes the selection of three Preludes chime at various times delightfully (5), sing with slow equanimity (23) and ruthlessly command attention (3).

The extended notes are in English and French.

We are assured that these recordings have been mastered and edited from broadcast tapes by Alexandra Evrard. We seem to have lost none of the virility and vitality in the process. This is a valuable, varied and vivid anthology.

Rob Barnett

Performance Details
From Jewish Poetry - Moscow, 15 January 1955, Nina Dorliak (soprano), Zara Dolukhanova (mezzo), Aleksei Maslennikov (tenor)
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1957) - Moscow, 10 May 1957, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Gauk
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1957) - Moscow, 27 November 1957, Moscow Philharmonic/Samuel Samosud; Josef Volovnik (trumpet)
Concertino for two pianos (1954) - Moscow Conservatory, 1957, Maxim Shostakovich
Piano Quintet Op. 57 (1940) - Moscow, 10 May 1957, Beethoven Quartet
Cello Sonata Op. 40 (1934) - live, Moscow Conservatory, 10 May 1957 - Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Preludes (2) Op. 34 (arr. violin and piano by Dmitri Tryganov) - Moscow Conservatory, 1957, Dmitri Tryganov (violin)
Preludes and Fugues Op. 87/5, 23, 3 (1950-53) - Moscow, May 1957



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