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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).
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
NEVER ANOTHER LIKE THIS PAIR! November 30, 2014
By Zita Carno (Tampa, FL) See All My Reviews
"I have been hearing a lot of these two concertos on my Classical Masterpieces station; many have been brilliant performances, but none can compare with my favorite coupling on Sony Masterworks Heritage---the Violin Concerto with Oistrakh, Mitropoulos and the New York Phil, and the Cello Concerto #1 with Rostropovich (and his sidekick Mason Jones), Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Premiere recordings, yes, and while they may not be the highest in hi-fi they are unsurpassed in performance. Every time I hear either of these two pieces I get the biggest kick out of it, especially the fast movements with all the satirical nyaah-nyaahs, the unrelenting noodging provided by the horn, the persistent screaming of the E-flat clarinets---my guess is that Shostakovich was not done with harassing his tormentors! Let's face it, I have a sense of humor that borders on the ridiculous, and I get my fill with these two concertos. I get a chill up and down my spine at the start of the third movement of the violin concerto, that menacing passacaglia in the low brass, and the way the violin starts softly and builds up to a screaming climax---oh, what brilliant satire is contained in these pieces, and I just love it. It's interesting, the way Shostakovich returned the opus number of the violin concerto to 77, where it should have been from the beginning---but he had to wait. (And Mason Jones is one heck of a fine horn player, Ormandy is in his element, and as for Mister Mitropoulos---where did he go? That guy was one heck of a fine conductor!)"