Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D; Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor; Sonata for Solo Violin in D

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D; Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor; Sonata for Solo Violin in D
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham (violin); LSO/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: 447 758-2 DDD
With their gratefully woven contrasts of lyrical dream and puckish fantasy, Russian impression and Hebraic inflexion, Prokofiev’s two violin concertos have long been popular with players – ever since Szigeti and Heifetz first made them famous back in the Twenties and Thirties. Gil Shaham, an immaculately high-octane violinist with plenty in reserve, enters a crowded field of rivals. He shines: his imagination is fertile, his technique equal to anything, his sense of structure and theatre commandingly impressive. His eloquently expressive tone and naturally instinctive phrasing confirm his position as an artist of the very first rank.

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Previn and his old orchestra (who also both accompany the ravishing Kyung-Wha Chung on Decca) are full of insight. From the opening shimmer of the First to the Spanish evocación of the Second’s finale, via marches and Romeo and Juliet ecstasy, they provide a backcloth of infinite authority and subtle maturity. Previn understands the current and imagery of this music like no one else: how he tensions the form and masks the joins is a lesson in performance.

Shaham’s poetic mastery of the late unaccompanied D major Sonata of 1947 (Prokofiev’s neo-classical contribution to the thirtieth anniversary of the October Revolution) is similarly impressive.

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Recorded in London’s Henry Wood Hall, the orchestral balance and detailing are exemplary, with the soloist spotlit more favourably than Sitkovetsky (Virgin) or Perlman (EMI). Demonstration material.