Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1; Cello Concerto No. 2

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Cello Concerto No. 1; Cello Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Mischa Maisky (cello)LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas
CATALOGUE NO: 445 821-2 DDD
Shostakovich wrote both his cello concertos for Rostropovich, who premiered them, made them known internationally, and recorded them in versions which, for sheer authority and emotional commitment, are cruelly hard to equal, let alone surpass. Maisky doesn’t quite manage it. Perhaps he’s not trying to: he clearly loves the works, but his view seems detached and classical, as if trying to let them speak for themselves from their assured position (not all that assured yet, in the case of the unjustly undervalued Second Concerto) as cornerstones of the repertoire.

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His technique, as the cadenzas show, is formidable: he responds well to Shostakovich’s sardonic humour, and the tender, abstracted inwardness he produces in No. 1’s slow movement makes this track the high point of the disc. All the tempi are judiciously chosen, the LSO plays superbly, Tilson Thomas shapes the broad architecture of No. 2’s huge first movement well, and the recording is first-rate. Yet the result is more polished than passionate. Somehow the finale of No. 1 runs out of steam just when it should become feverish, and the last two movements of No. 2 are strangely lacking in tension. One longs for Rostropovich’s fire, for the ache of weary longing he brings to the Second Concerto’s remarkable finale. Eminently serviceable, but there’s much more to these works than this version finds. Calum MacDonald