Prokofiev; Shostakovich

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev; Shostakovich
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev; Shostakovich: Violin Concertos
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Sarah Chang (violin); Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 346 0532
By choosing to couple together the first violin concertos of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, Chang and Rattle replicate the same programme that was originally offered by Vengerov and Rostropovich for their much acclaimed Teldec release of 1994. The comparison is valid not least because the partnership between soloist and conductor on both recordings is particularly stimulating. Here, the warmly recorded Berlin Philharmonic and Rattle provide a tangibly symphonic framework for the Shostakovich, highlighting much interesting detail and colour. They are equally alive to the more fantastic narrative of the Prokofiev Concerto, once again offering much more than a supporting role to the soloist’s line.

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As one might expect, Chang is in superb form projecting particularly high-voltage playing in the Scherzo and Finale of the Shostakovich and in the second movement of the Prokofiev. What I miss in both performances is that extra dimension of musical insight that elevates the interpretations beyond surface brilliance. A good case in point is the second movement of the Prokofiev which is technically immaculate, but lacking the fantasy, humour and spikiness that one gets in particular from Gil Shahan or Perlman. Likewise, for all Chang’s intensity and commitment, I find her overly sweet, almost sentimental vibrato at her first entry in the Shostakovich Passacaglia inappropriate to the nobility of the music. While Chang offers a suitably reflective account of the Nocturne, Vengerov is even more compelling in conveying the numbing despair and loneliness of the solo line. Erik Levi