The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performs Piano Concertos and String Quartets by Shostakovich

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2; String Quartet No. 8 (arr. Giltburg); String Quartet No. 2 – Waltz (arr. Giltburg)
PERFORMER: Boris Giltburg (piano); Rhys Owens (trumpet); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573666

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This recording of Shostakovich’s two piano concertos is a delight from start to finish. Having performed these works together in the RLPO’s 2015-16 concert season, Boris Giltburg and Vasily Petrenko are a tight unit, the pianist’s dashing virtuosity and subtlety of touch matched by equally incisive interpolations from the orchestra. Trumpeter Rhys Owens brilliantly characterises the satirical outbursts in the outer movements of the First Concerto, but is no less compelling in drawing us into the darker tones of the Lento. Petrenko’s atmospheric control of muted dynamics here provides a sharp and necessary contrast to the frenzied Keystone Cops-style Finale.

In the Second Concerto Giltburg’s shaping of the first movement’s opening is understated, a deliberate ploy that makes the eruption of aggression in the development section all the more effective. Equally enthralling is his noble and dignified approach to the slow movement, which is projected without any hint of sentimentality, and the sense of fun conveyed in the playful Finale.

Giltburg’s inclusion of his own transcription of Eighth Quartet – on the grounds that the composer left no large-scale work for solo piano of comparable emotional depth to that of his chamber works and symphonies – might raise eyebrows among purists. Inevitably, some compromises have to be made in such an arrangement, particularly with regard to the long sustained notes in this work, and the sudden crescendo has to be transformed here into a cinematic tremolando that bridges the first and second movements. Yet such is the poetry and breadth of colours conjured up by Giltburg throughout this tense work and the equally morbid Waltz from the Second Quartet that the ear soon accommodates to the very different instrumental timbre.

Erik Levi

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording here…