Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15; Cello Concerto No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 15; Cello Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Frans Helmerson (cello) Russian State SO/Valéry Polyansky
Polyansky, who from the evidence of his recordings seems better at handling choirs than orchestras, makes a brave attempt (as both conductor and producer) to come to terms with the games and funerals of Shostakovich’s final symphony, his tempi largely following those of Maxim Shostakovich’s LSO remake (Collins). But the performance gels only intermittently, the ‘last judgement’ tragedy of the Adagio in particular (with an unstable solo cello of wide vibrato) needing an altogether less flaccid kind of tension and rhythmic underlay to convince. (Tightness of rhythm – as Helmerson’s otherwise able if unremarkable First Cello Concerto similarly demonstrates – doesn’t yet seem to be one of Polyansky’s assets.) In the finale, the pace he sets himself (around three minutes longer than Maxim’s original 1972 recording for Melodiya) proves awkward to sustain, with the heart-faltering percussion of the closing pages needing greater purpose and placement. Reverberant Russian engineering (Mosfilm).


On the average side of good, Rozhdestvensky’s ‘live’ Leningrad (8 January 1968) comes from a crudely balanced broadcast. Emphasising brutality at the expense of lyricism, he knocks around 13 minutes off Maxim’s 1990 London version – a reading, however, of profounder depth and quality, Plenty of audience noise, no applause, ambience of the final chord artlessly faded out. Try Toscanini’s 1942 NBC Western premiere for a really legendary broadcast (RCA/BMG). Ates Orga