Notes and Editorial Reviews
Shostakovich had the great good fortune to write for Russia’s finest soloists, who also happened to be the among world’s best. David Oistrakh remade the First Violin Concerto with the composer’s son on the podium (EMI), but he never bettered this singularly intense performance from 1956, captured in excellent mono sound. Mitropoulos had a particular gift for contemporary music, especially of the nervous and twitchy sort, and that describes the Shostakovich to a tee, at least in the quick movements. That said, the pungent spikiness of the scherzo and finale, yield to this noble but always propulsive account of the great third movement passacaglia, followed immediately by Oistrakh’s alternately probing and brilliant cadenza.
The same qualities of idiomatic musical ownership describe Rostropovich’s first official recording of the First Cello Concerto, which was supervised by the composer in Philadelphia right after the work’s U.S. premiere. One of the more striking aspects of this performance is the moderate tempo of the opening movement. It makes us realize just how dependent on the actual sound of the cello the music really is, and how much confidence Shostakovich placed in Rostropovich, who pours out the tone unstintingly and quite literally sustains the entire movement. The expressive power he brings the second subject is unforgettable, but he follows it up with a gorgeous account of the slow movement and a cadenza and finale that remain points of reference for all future performances. Ormandy and the Philadelphia provide accompaniments that amazed the composer, as they should us as well.
The Cello Concerto dates from 1959, and features stereo sonics that have held up very well. It might seem strange to consider these performances “historical,” in the sense that they are not transfers from grotty old 78s or live air checks of dubious provenance, but they are more than half a century old, and if that’s not historical then what is? They are also reference recordings for both concertos, even with so many fine modern versions available (Mullova in the Violin Concerto, Schiff in the two cello concertos, both on Philips).
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Cello no 1 in E flat major, Op. 107 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Mason Jones (French Horn),
Mstislav Rostropovich (Cello)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1959; USSR
Date of Recording: 11/08/1959
Venue: Broadwood Hotel, Philadelphia, PA
Length: 27 Minutes 16 Secs.
Concerto for Violin no 1 in A minor, Op. 77 by Dmitri Shostakovich
David Oistrakh (Violin)
New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century
Date of Recording: 01/02/1956
Venue: Carnegie Hall, New York City
Length: 36 Minutes 10 Secs.
Notes: This concerto was originally published in 1956 as Op. 99.
Composition written: USSR (1947 - 1955).
II. Scherzo. Allegro non troppo
III. Passacaglia. Andante
IV. Burlesca. Allegro con brio
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