LSO - Shostakovich | Shchedrin

The Mariinsky label was launched in May 2009 with a ground-breaking recording of Shostakovich’s early opera The Nose, which received much praise and many awards. Gergiev continues to work his way through the Shostakovich oeuvre with the Mariinsky and here adds the two piano concertos, plus the fifth piano concerto by the popular Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin.

The soloist in all three concertos is the Siberian-born pianist Denis Matsuev, whose luminous sound and fluid playing is a bonus throughout. In the first and better-known Shostakovich concerto the Mariinsky’s trumpeter Timur Martynov emerges organically from the orchestra to add elegant solos and the madcap obbligato part in the final movement. The piece is a great vehicle for Matsuev’s jazz-like facility but Martynov more than matches him for brilliance in its final bars. One can’t help feeling that Shostakovich intended the trumpeter to steal the show in this piece and Martynov doesn’t disappoint with his rapid-fire delivery of the finale.

The second concerto, written a quarter of century later, explores similar territory but in a much denser, more symphonic fashion. Here the orchestra is allowed to shine in some searing tuttis. The deftness of its accompaniment is down to the maestro, who knows every note of this stuff, grabs it by the scruff of the neck and, at the appropriate moment, whirls it around. As presented here it’s an attractive work which deserves to be played more often than it is.

Mariinsky Concert Hall

The Shchedrin proved to be an interesting work to round off this disc – much the same sound world as the Shostakovich in fact, and absolutely assured in its extension of Shostakovich’s musical language. Shchedrin describes the final movement of the work as an attempt to mimic the crescendo of Ravel’s Boléro, albeit through the medium of a mind-bogglingly intricate piano part. Any composer would be overjoyed to hear their music played with the level of commitment and panache demonstrated here by Matsuev, Gergiev and his players.

Establishing its own label has allowed the Mariinsky to reach an international audience, showcasing both Russia’s rich musical heritage and the finest contemporary artists. The acoustic of the Mariinsky Concert Hall, where all these discs are made, is a producer’s dream.

James Mallinson - LSO Live Producer

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