Robert E. Nylund | Ft. Wayne, Indiana United States | 10/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those unfamiliar with Dmitri Shostakovich, this wonderful EMI compilation offers three of his greatest works and shows the variety of music he produced during his long career. Shostakovich himself was a gifted pianist, so it's no wonder that his two piano concertos are quite spectacular and showy. They are a lot of fun to hear, too. The performances are exciting throughout, including the spectacular trumpet solos in the first concerto. The first symphony was Shostakovich's first great triumph and it is given an excellent performance on this CD. There are so many different moods in this work, which is filled with drama, passion, and tragedy, as well as some Shostakovich's biting sarcasm and satire. Mariss Jansons is a veteran Russian conductor who has lately had an international career that has been distinguished by performances and recordings of Sibelius and some of the Russian composers. This is an extremely enjoyable album."
Impish Shostakovich in pretty good readings
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 01/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Though a noted pianist himself, Shostakovich did not exploit the instrument for virtuosic display--his two concertos are impish and light-fingered. Jazz and vaudeville bump noses with Haydn. The second cncerto, written for his son Maxim, age 19, is even saucier. The prominent trumpet part in the first concerto--here played too soberly and without pnache--is a leftover of Shostakovich's original intent to write a trumpet cncerto.
A lack of panache flaws Mikhail Rudy's piano playing also. Although a favorite of Jansons', who used Rudy in his set of Rachmaninov concertos for EMI, this pianist never quite panned out: he is too sober-sided and lacking in imaginaiton. That doesn't kill these performances, but it doesn't help. The plainness of the usually infectious First Sym. makes me wonder if Shoshtakovich's humorous side just isn't suited to Jansons. Despite that, as a bargain release in excelent sound this one is recommendable, without relish."
Not suitable for elevators
David A. Baer | Indianapolis, IN USA | 12/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lovers of Dmitri Shostakovich's music are likely to experience the first blush of passion through the eyes rather than the ears. The distinctive cover art of the EMI Classics series juxtaposes the EMI angelic theme to Kazimir Malevich's Supremus No. 58: Dynamic Composition in Yellow and Black, then gives the mentioned artwork pride of place on the inside of the cd cover itself.
The musical and the visual art complement each other perfectly. And that's before you've turned on your stereo. It gets better after that.
Latvian conductor Mariss Janson makes the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic sound like all-Shostakovich shops, with pianist Mikhail Rudy and trumpeter Ole Edvard Antonsen completing the line-up in the composer's unlikely Concerto for Piano, Trumpet & Strings.
This is not an album to be utilized as mood music, except in those cases where schizophrenic preferences are already too advanced for treatment. Rather, Shostakovich here - as elsewhere - demands the listener's concentration. When that is conceded to him, he surprises with some gorgeous melodic lines that are almost startling for a man whose output is so easily categorized as spare, atonal, abstract, and even strident.
One catches first wind of such melodic capacity in the second movement of the First Concerto ('Lento'), then is almost overtaken by it in the Andante of the Concerto No. 2.
Still, it is misguided to seek only those melodic passages that most appeal to one's aesthetic palate, so I must mention that Shostakovich's pathos and power reside also in those tranches of challenging dissonance that are for many an acquired taste. Though the composer might not agree with the urge to write his story across the historical canvas or to see them principally againt that backdrop, one can almost hear the events of early twentieth-century Russia in these pieces, as Mother Russia writhed.
All in all, some brilliant Shostakovitch being played here. It's even affordable. Kudos to EMI for the artwork."