Shostakovich: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Phoenix
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Dimitri Maslennikov (cello);
NDR Symphony Orchestra/
Christoph Eschenbach
CATALOGUE NO: 128

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It may seem unfortunate timing that this release, featuring the very gifted young Russian virtuoso Dimitri Maslennikov, follows in the wake of two highly impressive Shostakovich Concerto recordings from Daniel Müller-Schott and Pieter Wispelwey. But even if the recording had appeared some months earlier, I doubt whether I would have welcomed it as warmly as those two performances. Granted Maslennikov plays with formidable technical brilliance, dispatching the very challenging double stops and octaves in the third movement cadenza of Concerto No. 2 with consummate ease. The closing section of the Finale to the First is particularly exciting with Christoph Eschenbach and the NDR Symphony Orchestra providing urgent and rhythmically defined support. But in the first movement the ensemble is not quite so tightly held, whilst in the ensuing Moderato and Cadenza Maslennikov seems unwilling to move forward sufficiently when the music warrants more ebb and flow. This tendency to drag becomes even more pronounced in the Second Concerto, a dangerous tactic when the musical argument in the outer movements can appear to be somewhat discursive. Müller-Schott adopts similarly expansive tempos but somehow manages to hold the attention far more effectively, mainly through the sheer intensity with which he colours the melodic line. In contrast to the sound on Orfeo, this much drier recording brings extra clarity to the orchestral accompaniment though the performance as a whole seems to lack a real sense of atmosphere. Erik Levi