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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Concertino for two pianos; Tarantella for two pianos
PERFORMER: Anna Vinnitskaya (piano), Tobias Willner (trumpet), Ivan Rudin (piano); Kremerata Baltica/Omer Meir Wellber


Shostakovich’s Piano Concertos can appear mere divertissements among his ‘major’ works. Yet the First Concerto’s apparently lightweight and flippant character is deceptive: its mercurial changes of mood – full-blown Romanticism undercut by skittish non sequiturs – are tricky to pull off. Indeed, the composer’s own nervy recordings do less than full justice to its concentrated emotional range. Anna Vinnitskaya, by keeping a relatively cool head, reveals more of its depths as well as its teasing character; too self-consciously so, perhaps, in her over-drawn out trill in the finale which precedes a prankish snippet of ‘Rage over a lost penny’. For that extra inch towards perfection, I would still recommend Oleg Marshev (on Danacord), who captures something of Shostakovich’s own edge-of-seat impetuosity while also revealing more of the work’s mischief and its moment of bleak despair (in the slow movement). His trumpeter, too, comes across as a more evenly matched and charismatic partner, acceptable though Tobias Willner is.


In the less complex Second Concerto, written for Shostakovich’s 19-year-old son Maxim, Vinnitskaya and Kremerata Baltica collaborate in a particularly alert and responsive performance: the outer movements are perky and playful, and the well-loved slow movement, taken not as slowly as has become standard but at a flowing Andante (moderately slow) as requested by the composer, conjures a seductive ease rare in Shostakovich. The Concertino for Two Pianos and the light-hearted Tarantella are attractive makeweights. Daniel Jaffé