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

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Russian Disc
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Leonid Kogan (violin), David Oistrakh (violin)Moscow PO/Kirill Kondrashin
Ever adventurous, Gidon Kremer presents a decided oddity – Shostakovich’s reorchestration (originally for Rostropovich’s benefit) of Schumann’s Cello Concerto (1850), but using a transcription of the solo part for violin, said to be Schumann’s own. Yet would Shostakovich have set down the same accompaniment had he been envisaging a violin solo? And why in any case did he feel the need to touch up (adding harp, and so on) a work which has kept favour, unaided, for more than 125 years?


Yet with such an excellent artist as Kremer, and with only one slightly late orchestral chord as the penalty of this ‘live’ recording, I can allow this performance house-room as a companion to ‘real’ Shostakovich. In the Concerto No. 2, the marvellous ‘speaking’ eloquence of Kremer’s violin (superbly supported by Ozawa and the Bostonians) illumines the whole, extensive emotional range of the music.


But as a choice of coupling, give me the Russian reissues, which are of a surprisingly high technical quality. Finely partnered by Kondrashin as conductor, Oistrakh excels in the asperities as well as the long-flowing lines of No. 2. The unusually well-scored No. 1 (with horns and tuba, but neither trumpets nor trombones), is heroic, monumental music – hear the magnificent Passacaglia which forms the third of the four movements. There follows a cadenza of nearly five-minutes in which, I have to say, Kogan short-changes the pianissimo indications. But it’s an affecting, exhilarating disc. Arthur Jacobs