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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2
WORKS: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Truls Mørk (cello); Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko


Nearly 20 years after he recorded Shostakovich’s two Cello Concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Mariss Jansons for Virgin Classics, Truls Mørk has returned to this repertory in vividly engineered live performances given in Oslo in 2013. A superficial comparison between these recordings, which almost mirror each other in terms of the timings of each movement, might suggest that Mørk’s view of the music has hardly altered over this period. Yet there is little doubt that the present performance of the First Concerto is even more incisive than its predecessor, thanks in no small measure to the pungent rhythmically driven contribution from the Norwegian orchestra in the outer movements. Likewise, Mørk extracts greater pathos from the simple folk melody of the Moderato than before, and Vasily Petrenko draws out a wealth of fascinating detail from the orchestral accompaniment.

Such an outstanding reading makes this an obvious front runner in a highly competitive field. The Second Concerto, on the other hand, doesn’t convince me to the same extent even though I find this new version more engaging than its rather pallid predecessor. Certainly, Mørk plays this deeply introspective music with great sensitivity and projects the almost suffocating sense of suffering that infuses the solo part. Yet other interpreters, in particular Pieter Wispelwey on Channel Classics (CCSSA25308), secure a wider range of colouring from Shostakovich’s rather grey canvas and engage in a more theatrical dialogue with the orchestra. This approach is especially crucial to the ruminative Finale where Mørk’s reticence and lack of forward momentum at times threatens to undermine the structural lucidity of Shostakovich’s musical argument.


Erik Levi