Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Aram Khachaturian, Dmitry Shostakovich, Alexander Gauk|
The Art of Yulian Sitkovetsky, Vol. 5
Listen to Samples
White-Hot Live Shostakovich Concerto
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I wanted so much to give this CD a five-star rating but the execrable 1950s mono sound requires that I downrate it a bit. This live performance of the music, though, is simply first-rate. The violin sound is true and present, but the rough-and-tumble orchestra often sounds as if they are playing in the next room. I have a thing about the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto -- I've loved it passionately ever since I first heard it in the now-classic and irreplaceable recording by David Oistrakh with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic from 1956. No other recorded performance that I've ever heard -- and I've heard most of them -- comes close to Oistrakh's. But this one by his young colleague Yulian Sitkovetsky comes as close as anyone ever has on record. Alas, not only is the orchestral sound dodgy, but this is, as far as I know, the first wide release of this live recording, fifty years after it was performed by Sitkovetsky with the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Gauk. (It was apparently available on the obscure SYD label in the mid-1990s.) It is being released as Volume 5 in the series of Sitkovetsky recordings being fostered by his illustrious musical family -- his widow pianist Bella Davidovich and son violinist/conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky among them. I've now heard all five of 'The Art of Yulian Sitkovetsky' releases thus far and have concluded, as many did before me, that Yulian Sitkovetsky was a fabulous violinist whose cruel death from lung cancer at the age of 32 only months after this performance was one of the tragedies in recent musical history.
More even than Oistrakh, Sitkovetsky's playing of this concerto emphasizes the anguish and melancholy of the great work, even in the hell-for-leather final movement. Somehow there is a sob in Sitkovetsky's violin's tone. It has the quality of a human voice, the sort of thing one hears when a great Verdian sings 'Piangi, piangi.' I'm not a string player and I don't know how he accomplishes this, but I have no doubt that it is there. This is coupled with faultless technical assurance including laser-like intonation and hair-trigger reflexes. The Passacaglia is played here at the slow tempo that Oistrakh/Mitropoulos took; it has been generally faster and less effective in more recent recordings. It is the center of gravity of this so-human concerto and almost tears one's heart out. The cadenza that connects it with the Finale is, in Sitkovetsky's hands, like a great Shakespearean soliloquy in its searing effect.
The live Khachaturian Violin Concerto is in much better sound, thankfully, and the playing is just as assured and musical as that in the Shostakovich. Musically the keening Andante is not as great as Shostakovich's Passacaglia, but Sitkovetsky plays it as if it were, and almost convinces the listener. The outer movements are exciting, even invigorating, and the orchestra, the USSR Radio Symphony, is much more assured-sounding under composer Aram Khachaturian himself.
I would not recommend the Shostakovich as one's only recording of the concerto, but for those who adore the concerto as I do, this performance is a must-have.