Shostakovich: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Mariinsky
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Denis Martynov (trumpet); Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev


Denis Matsuev may be better-known internationally as a Rachmaninov expert, but these new accounts of the two Shostakovich Concertos must be among the best currently available. He is brilliant and mercurial in the fast movements of both works, creatively negotiating the First’s many changes of direction, tempo and style and bringing a sense of élan to the Second’s outer movements. He also gives the Second’s Rachmaninov-like central Andante all due expressive weight and Romantic feeling. In all this he is assisted by the superb playing that Valery Gergiev draws from the Mariinsky Orchestra, and superb SACD sound.

Trumpet soloist Timur Martynov is not as brilliant in No. 1 as Håkan Hardenberger with Leif Ove Andsnes and the CBSO (EMI). Or Sergei Nakariakov in Martha Argerich’s towering performance, also on EMI. Argerich is a benchmark here, along with Alexander Melnikov’s new CD (see p100) but these performances are exceptional, nonetheless.

Rodion Shchedrin’s atmospheric Fifth Concerto (1999) is less pithy, but the subued poetry of its first two movements is haunted by past composers – most notably, Prokofiev. Its finale explodes into a capricious moto perpetuo, becoming a bravura toccata that leads to a kaleidoscopic finale. Matsuev’s stamina and technique pass the test with flying colours. Though the piece seems over-long, I was glad to hear it. This unfamiliar coupling offers added value for any collector of Russian music.


Calum MacDonald