Prokofiev/Stravinsky

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev/Stravinsky
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2; Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Cho-Liang Lin (violin)Los Angeles PO/Esa-Pekka Salonen
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53969 DDD
Shostakovich wrote his first violin concerto in 1937, at a time when Soviet officialdom was clamping down on individual artistic expression, and he wisely withheld it until after Stalin’s death. It is a powerful work, beginning with a brooding Nocturne, and including two bitterly ironic quick movements. Vengerov plays the Nocturne closer to an adagio than the composer’s ‘Moderato’ marking, and he also lingers long over the cadenza linking the Passacaglia with the finale; yet such is the expressive intensity of his playing that it would be churlish to complain.

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Prokofiev’s two concertos, also composed during troubled times, seem blissfully unaware of political events. No. 1 was actually written in the revolutionary year of 1917, and it opens with one of Prokofiev’s most memorable trouvailles; an aching, dreamlike melody which returns, even more exquisitely scored, at the end.

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Cho-Liang Lin’s direct rival in these works (and the bright neo-classical Stravinsky) is Kyung-Wha Chung, now available at mid-price. Choice between them is not easy: this new version is superbly recorded, and benefits from Salonen’s alert conducting, but Lin, although technically impeccable, is just a shade uninvolving. Good as they are, neither can quite match Vengerov’s stunning playing in the First Concerto. His outstanding disc comes with a free sampler CD.