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Shostakovich: Concerto No. 1 For Piano & Trumpet; String Quartet No. 8

Shostakovich / Glemser / Friedrich / Fiedler
Release Date: 07/25/2006 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 561   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Bernd GlemserReinhold Friedrich
Conductor:  Achim Fiedler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lucerne Festival Strings
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 47 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Just when I thought no one had anything new to say about Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto and the Eighth String Quartet, along came Fiedler, Glemser, and a bunch of musicians from Switzerland to inform me otherwise. I’ve been listening to this CD for weeks, but I am writing the review today after having watched James McTeigue’s film V for Vendetta last night. Based on a graphic novel, the film’s tag line is “People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people.” No doubt, Shostakovich would have approved. The film’s title character displays the savage wit heard in the concerto, and lives in a fear-ridden, despairing society such as is depicted in the quartet.

My last exposure to
Read more Fiedler and Festival Strings Lucerne was a disc of music by Bach, Adams, and Reich (!), reviewed last year in these pages. I thought it was a superb, imaginative disc, and I am glad to be no less enthusiastic about the present release. The musicians strip the concerto of decades of accumulated pudge and reclaim it as a work of biting sarcasm and youthful satire. It is easy to make the last movement sound comical; here, it is made to sound downright savage. The other movements are sharply characterized as well. Glemser brings out the music’s awkward elbows and harsh accents, and he mopes his way comically through the Lento. Friedrich’s trumpet-playing is appropriately garish: Socialist Realism, done up in clown colors.

When Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet is tackled by a string orchestra, it usually is played in an arrangement by Rudolf Barshai. I was surprised to see that Rudolf Baumgartner, co-founder of Festival Strings Lucerne, was responsible for the arrangement played here. There are only so many ways one can arrange a string quartet for string orchestra, so one should not expect a night-and-day difference between the two, but I think Baumgartner’s arrangement from 1981 has the edge over Barshai’s, as it includes more marked contrasts and is better able to capture the original’s anger and dazed resignation. On the other hand, perhaps I am just responding to the performance, which is appropriately brutal and frighteningly intense. This CD has just become my gold standard for both of these works.

As a bonus, Oehms includes Glemser’s performance of the dignified, introspective C-Major Prelude in the original piano version, and in an arrangement for string orchestra, once more by Baumgartner. Three cheers for innovative programming! (No matter that Baumgartner’s arrangement changes the music’s character drastically.)

Even if you already have a satisfactory recording of Barshai’s arrangement of the Eighth String Quartet, you owe it to yourself to hear this alternative version. A bracing (to say the least) performance of the Piano Concerto tips the scales to make this disc an essential purchase for any admirer of Shostakovich’s music.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C minor, Op. 35 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Bernd Glemser (Piano), Reinhold Friedrich (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Achim Fiedler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lucerne Festival Strings
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; USSR 
Venue:  Tonstudio Gabriel Recording, Stalden, Sw 
Length: 20 Minutes 29 Secs. 
2.
Quartet for Strings no 8 in C minor, Op. 110 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Achim Fiedler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lucerne Festival Strings
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USSR 
Venue:  Tonstudio Gabriel Recording, Stalden, Sw 
Length: 19 Minutes 27 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35: I. Allegro moderato
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35: II. Lento
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35: III. Moderato
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35: IV. Allegro con brio
24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Prelude No. 1 in C major
String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (arr. R. Baumgartner): I. Largo
String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (arr. R. Baumgartner): II. Allegro molto
String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (arr. R. Baumgartner): III. Allegretto
String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (arr. R. Baumgartner): IV. Largo
String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (arr. R. Baumgartner): V. Largo
24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Prelude No. 1 in C major (arr. R. Baumgartner): 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Prelude No. 1 in C major (arr. for string orchestra)

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