Shostakovich: Violin Sonata-arr. Zinman & Pushkarev; Viola Sonata-arr. V Mendelssohn

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Violin Sonata-arr. Zinman & Pushkarev; Viola Sonata-arr. V Mendelssohn
PERFORMER: Yuri Bashmet (viola), Andrej Pushkarev (percussion); Kremerata Baltica/Gidon Kremer (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6196
You’d have to be a die-hard purist not to appreciate the virtues of these two fascinating transcriptions. The Violin Sonata remains one of Shostakovich’s most uncompromising works, its morbid and introverted outer movements framing a central scherzo of unremitting anger.

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Experiencing the music in this imaginative and resourceful arrangement serves to emphasise its stylistic proximity to the 14th Symphony, the work Shostakovich composed immediately after the Sonata, and brings greater colour and dramatic impetus. In this new context the Scherzo and the extraordinary climax of the Finale pack an extra degree of ferocity, whilst at the other end of the dynamic spectrum, the closing passages to the first and third movements sound even more eerie than in the original.

Recorded live at concerts given in Russia, Gidon Kremer and his marvellous Kremerata Baltica respond to the music with searing commitment, the audience remaining totally gripped throughout the performance.

A similar degree of concentrated intensity is present in the Viola Sonata. Admittedly, by transcribing the piano part for string orchestra (presented here with discreet but entirely apposite interpolations for celesta and vibraphone) Vladimir Mendelssohn may have robbed Shostakovich’s swansong of some of its intimacy. But the atmospheric recording and Yuri Bashmet’s charismatic interpretation wipe away any nagging doubts.

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Although Yuri Bashmet’s tempo for the opening movement may seem too slow and indulgent for the composer’s prescribed marking of Moderato, the conviction of the playing surmounts initial misgivings, as it does in the Adagio which emerges here as an incredibly moving farewell to life. All of the performances are recommended. Erik Levi