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Shostakovich: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Etc / Petrenko, Giltburg, RLPO

Release Date: 01/13/2017 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573666   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Boris GiltburgRhys Owens
Conductor:  Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

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Shostakovich’s two Piano Concertos span a period of almost thirty years. The youthful First Piano Concerto is a masterful example of eclecticism, its inscrutable humour and seriousness allied to virtuoso writing enhanced by the rôle for solo trumpet. Written as a birthday present for his son Maxim, the Second Piano Concerto is light-spirited with a hauntingly beautiful slow movement. With the permission of the composer’s family, Boris Giltburg has arranged the exceptionally dark, deeply personal and powerful String Quartet No. 8, thereby
Read more establishing a major Shostakovich solo piano composition.



We have no shortage of excellent versions of the two Shostakovich piano concertos, including Igoshina’s on CPO and Marc-André Hamelin’s on Hyperion. Here is another. These are big, bold, in-your-face performances that find a wider range of expression in both works than you might have believed possible. Much of the credit for this belongs to Vasily Petrenko as well, who continues his series of top-notch Shostakovich recordings for Naxos.

In the First Concerto, particularly the outer movements, Giltburg attacks the zany, theater music themes with unbridled ferocity, finding a bitter edge of desperation for all the music’s wackiness. The bright, up-front sonics and Rhys Owens’ piercing trumpet complement the approach, and there is also some remarkably precise ensemble playing from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic strings. It’s an exhausting cliff-hanger of a performance.

Giltburg and Petrenko’s vision of the theoretically light and easy Second Piano Concerto is even more striking. From the dry, perky winds at the start to the positively cataclysmic first movement development section, this is clearly a performance that has tremendous character–one which finds plenty of menace beneath the music’s breezy, sometimes comical, sometimes sweetly romantic exterior. It makes you sit up and listen with fresh ears, truly.

The two concertos really are two short for a single disc, and finding appropriate couplings is always an issue. This is where things get really interesting. Giltburg has made transcriptions of some of Shostakovich’s music for string quartet, the Waltz third movement from the Second Quartet, and the entire Eighth Quartet. He evidently had permission from Shostakovich’s family, which means nothing, as family members are usually terrible guardians of their illustrious ancestral legacies.

The Waltz works well enough, but the Eighth Quartet is an impossible piece to transcribe for the keyboard. This is string music, plain and simple. The sustained notes in the fourth movement simply cannot be reproduced on the piano, although with clever pedaling and a sensible tempo Giltburg almost pulls it off. The savage second movement sounds positively tame here: evidently it’s much easier to push a string quartet to its limits than it is a Fazioli.

Curiously, however, it’s impossible to call the performance as such a failure. It’s quite moving in its way, and if you know the original, either as a quartet or in its chamber symphony version, you can’t help but come away with a renewed appreciation of Shostakovich’s genius for matching the music to the (original) medium. But please, let’s not have any more of these experiments. One is more than enough. A great disc.

– ClassicsToday(David Hurwitz)

Giltburg has all the agility, power and expressive intensity Shostakovich’s piano concertos demand, plus the temperament to negotiate their mercurial shifts of mood. Every phrase is imaginatively colored or nuanced, and never out of gimmicky point making, always because he has something worth saying. And he has found like-minded partners in the RLPO and Petrenko, who not only follow and support him superbly but also respond and provoke where appropriate.

– Gramophone

What is so appealing about this record is that the Boris Giltburg has rethought the works through the prism of the composer’s experiences. The first concerto is wonderfully skittish, a series of melodic in-jokes and exchanges with the orchestra. The second concerto, determinedly frisky, is played with a reckless to-hell-with-it abandon. With devastating precision, Giltburg has interpolated between the concertos his own piano reductions of one movement of the second string quartet and the entirety of the eight quartet, contemporaneous with the two piano concertos, exposing the composer’s seditious inner thoughts. This is a constantly illuminating, almost faultless project.

– Norman Lebrecht Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 1 in C minor, Op. 35 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Boris Giltburg (Piano), Rhys Owens (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; USSR 
Quartet for Strings no 2 in A major, Op. 68: III. Waltz by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Boris Giltburg (Piano)
Notes: Arr. for Piano: B. Giltburg 
Concerto for Piano no 2 in F major, Op. 102 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Boris Giltburg (Piano)
Conductor:  Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USSR 
Quartet for Strings no 8 in C minor, Op. 110 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Boris Giltburg (Piano)
Conductor:  Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USSR 
Notes: Arr. for Piano: B. Giltburg 

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