Sasha Rozhdestvensky and Jeremy Menuhin play Shostakovich

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COMPOSERS: Dmitri Shostakovich; Gaetano Braga; Igor Stravinsky
LABELS: FHR Remasters
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich • Braga • Stravinsky
WORKS: Shostakovich: Violin Sonata, Op. 134; Violin Sonata (unfinished); String Quartet No. 4 – Andantino (arr. Tsyganov); Braga: La Serenata; Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms (arr. Shostakovich)
PERFORMER: Ilona Domnich (soprano), Alexandra Sherman (mezzo), Sasha Rozhdestvensky (violin), Jeremy Menuhin (piano), Mookie Menuhin (piano)


It’s an unfortunate matter of timing that two advertised world premiere recordings of a previously unknown 1945 Violin Sonata fragment by Shostakovich should have been released within months of each other. The rival recording from Linus Roth and Jose Galliardo on Challenge Classics (reviewed December 2015) places it in the context of other wartime violin compositions by Hartmann and Weinberg. This present release sits it alongside the much later and extremely sombre Violin Sonata which Shostakovich dedicated to David Oistrakh. This latter work receives a very effective performance from Sasha Rozhdestvensky and Jeremy Menuhin who are particularly adept at building up a real sense of tension through the long Finale. The first movement, on the other hand, is less compelling, and requires a wider range of colours and dynamics to make an impact.

There are no obvious reasons as to why Shostakovich abandoned his earlier attempt at writing a Violin Sonata. All that survives is the double exposition of the opening movement, but the thematic material is entirely characteristic of the composer and intriguingly bears strong connections with the later Tenth Symphony. Unfortunately, the other Shostakovich premiere recordings on this warmly recorded release are of more limited appeal. Fascinating though it may be to discover that Shostakovich completed a four-hand piano transcription of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms during the 1930s, particularly when performed with such fine sense of ensemble as here, the arrangement does not offer any special musical insights. Neither can I be particularly enthusiastic about the over-sentimentalised singing of the Braga arrangement which Shostakovich intended to incorporate into a projected opera based on Chekhov’s short story The Black Monk.


Erik Levi