Gautier Capuçon Performs Shostakovich’s Cello Concertos

Performed with the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev.

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Gautier Capuçon Performs Shostakovich’s Cello Concertos
WORKS: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Gautier Capuçon (cello); Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 2564606973

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It’s almost impossible to disentangle Shostakovich’s Cello Concertos from Rostropovich’s larger-than-life interpretations. Yet any prospective interpreter can so easily be trapped into cloning the distinctive performing nuances long established in the great cellist’s recordings of these masterpieces, rather than finding new and equally valid things to say about the music. Fortunately, Gautier Capuçon is too consummate a musician to opt for pale imitations. Working hand in glove with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, he delivers passionate and rhythmically incisive accounts of the outer movements of the First Concerto. More unusual, however, is the brooding account of the second movement Moderato. The tempo adopted here is very expansive indeed, but somehow there is enough ebb and flow in the musical line to avoid any impression of dragging. Capuçon and Gergiev draw particularly striking connections between the eerie return of the main theme in cello harmonics and the chilling image of the night conjured up during the first movement of Violin Concerto No. 1.

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Capuçon’s insightful interpretation of this movement also points forward to the claustrophobic levels of musical expression that are explored in the Second Concerto. It’s something of a challenge to draw the listener into such dark and emotionally forbidding music, and I’m not fully convinced that Capuçon and Gergiev manage to mesmerise the listener to the same extent as does Pieter Wispelwey on Channel Classics. Nevertheless, there is also much to admire here, particularly in the way both soloist and orchestra ratchet up the emotional temperature throughout the course of the second movement, and in the patient way they unfold the epic drama through the long and occasionally discursive Finale. Erik Levi