Shostakovich: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Violin Sonata

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Alexander Melnikov (piano); Isabelle Faust (violin), Jeroen Berwaerts (trumpet); Mahler Chamber Orchestra/ Teodor Currentzis


Alexander Melnikov has already given us a revelatory version of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues. On this new Harmonia Mundi release, he seems every bit as good in the same composer’s Piano Concertos as Denis Matsuev, who gives fine performances of these works with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra.

Though sensitively partnered by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Melnikov has nothing so revelatory to say about No. 2, whose depths and beauties lie on the surface. But in the more complex vaudeville of No. 1, his lightning switches of tempo and mood in the fast movements outdo most competitors for bizarrerie.

The Lento second movement becomes almost Mahlerian in its sense of desolation, bringing out the best in Melnikov and the orchestra. They play with rapt sensitivity and extremely soft, refined dynamics, producing a dreamlike and bitterly exquisite atmosphere to which Jeroen Berwaerts’s trumpet adds a final layer of angst.

If this disc beats Matsuev’s it’s because Melnikov includes a searing, thrilling account of Shostakovich’s late Violin Sonata, Op. 134, in which he partners the very impressive Isabelle Faust. She seems on top form these days. (I was greatly impressed by her recent Brahms Violin Concerto with the Busoni cadenza; her Berg and Beethoven Violin Concertos is Recording of the Month, p98.)


The Violin Sonata is an altogether craggier and more austere work than the Piano Concertos. Its extraordinary swings of mood – from elegy to anger, to defiance and despair – require the nuance and fine dynamic shadings that Faust shows here. She also delivers a compulsively dynamic, cumulatively exhausting interpretation of the central Scherzo. Unhesitatingly recommended as one of the best versions of all three works currently available.