Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor (Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings); Jazz Suite No. 1; Jazz Suite No. 2

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor (Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings); Jazz Suite No. 1; Jazz Suite No. 2
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (piano), Peter Masseurs (trumpet); Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 433 702-2 DDD
On the surface, it is difficult to reconcile the music on this CD with the intimate, tragic, and occasionally terrifying legacy of Shostakovich’s symphonic output. But his enthusiasm for writing jazz and light music was constantly thwarted by the authorities, who were in the habit of condemning frivolous music of any kind as belonging to ‘the fat bourgeoisie’.

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The Jazz Suites are more accurately known as Suites for Dance Band. The first is sparse, satirical, and owes much to Kurt Weill and German café music, whilst the second has a ghostly Viennese atmosphere. Between the two is sandwiched the First Piano Concerto, which is here given a highly enjoyable and somewhat reckless performance. A recent Decca release with Jablonski and the RPO (reviewed in our December issue) is more accurate, but Ronald Brautigam’s warm-blooded interpretation with the Concertgebouw is rather more entertaining, demonstrating an air of swinging insouciance that is carried through to the Jazz Suites.

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The real value of this disc is to unsettle those who would see only the one side of this eclectic and prolific composer. True, those lightweight dances are not without jollity, but they are above all superbly crafted miniatures that bear all the hallmarks of this composer’s all-embracing musicality. The recording is rich and satisfying – not hugely realistic, but for this sort of music that is not a flaw. Christopher Lambton