Violin concertos by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky performed by Linus Roth with the LSO

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Challenge Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich * Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 2; Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Linus Roth (violin); London Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Sanderling
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72689 (hybrid CD/SACD)


After Frank Peter Zimmermann’s outstanding performance of Shostakovich’s Second Violin Concerto on BIS (Recording of the Month, March 2017), it is fascinating to hear a rather different conception of this still underrated work from his compatriot, Linus Roth. While Zimmermann is concerned with bringing as much light and shade as possible to Shostakovich’s writing, Roth is stark and uncompromising throughout, drawing you into its claustrophobic world, especially in the central Adagio. Thomas Sanderling and the London Symphony Orchestra provide sturdy support with forwardly placed cellos and double basses in the opening dialogue.

I was less convinced by the handling of the first movement’s middle section, the sustained battle between violin and percussion appearing dogged but ultimately lacking in impetus. However, the Finale’s gallows humour and bitter sarcasm are given full sway in this brilliantly engineered recording. Here the more deliberately ponderous tempo pays dividends as the violent interjections of woodwind and brass and the battering percussion engage in an increasingly terrifying life to death struggle with the soloist.

The warmth of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is a welcome balm after the darkness and despair of the Shostakovich. Roth plays the solo part immaculately but does not quite achieve the variety of nuance and personality that comes with the most compelling accounts – see for instance Lisa Batiashvili’s recent recording (Concerto Choice, p122). Still, this recording is certainly worth investigating for being the first on record to observe faithfully all of Tchaikovsky’s original indications. Admittedly, most of the differences from the familiar text will be difficult to discern without the aid of a score, but there is one striking revelation in the Canzonetta, where the instruction not to remove the mute in the middle section gives the movement as a whole a much more intimate character than we normally hear.


Erik Levi