ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
PERFORMER: Leila Josefowicz (violin), John Novacek (piano); City of Birmingham SO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62997-2
With the much acclaimed performances by Maxim Vengerov and Daniel Hope already gracing its catalogue you could be forgiven for wondering why on earth Warner Classics is releasing a further recording of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto. In this case, however, the decision was entirely justified. This warmly engineered live performance positively bristles with atmosphere and conviction. Leila Josefowicz projects a sense of narrative in the solo part, nowhere more convincingly realised than in an exceptionally compelling build-up of tension through the long cadenza. In comparison with Vengerov and Hope, the tempo chosen for the opening Nocturne may seem somewhat on the fast side, but Sakari Omaro and the CBSO shape the desolate orchestral accompaniment with wonderful awareness of the music’s underlying fragility and loneliness. Indeed the partnership between soloist, conductor and orchestra is consistently incisive with innumerable textural details imaginatively brought to the fore.
Similar qualities abound in the studio performance of the Violin Sonata, a dark and brooding work written for David Oistrakh’s 60th birthday that can sound surprisingly arid in lesser hands. Once again Josefowicz’s aural imagination seems to be working on overdrive particularly in the way she colours the enigmatic codas to the first and third movements. Here the connection with the chilling ‘rushing wind’ passage in Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata is particularly tangible. The central scherzo (Allegretto), delivered with unremitting vehemence by Josefowicz and her excellent partner John Novacek, provides the necessary contrast to the largely introspective qualities of the work as a whole. Erik Levi.