Frank Peter Zimmermann

Shostakovich: Violin Concertos 1 & 2

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There's a school of thought that holds that it takes Russian performers to really catch the suppressed rage, the minatory edge in the music of Dmitry Shostakovich, especially in that following his multiple denunciations by the Communist Party's artistic apparatus. Don't tell German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann (nor conductor Alan Gilbert, leading the NDR Elbphilharmonie), who delivers one of the more agonized readings of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77, in the catalog. This work, composed in 1948 (for David Oistrakh, as was the second concerto), coincided with one of those denunciations and had to await its premiere for years. It bristles with the musical initials D-S-C-H, the musical identity marker of the composer's later years (the initials are his own, using the German names of H for B natural and Es for E flat), with Jewish materials like several other key Shostakovich works from the Second World War and the following years, and with a certain inward, heated quality that Zimmermann captures beautifully here. Sample above all the third-movement "Passacaglia" and its haunting cadenza that seems insistently to point toward some unknown trauma. The Violin Concerto No. 2 in C sharp minor, Op. 129, is one of the death-haunted works from the composer's later years, and it receives a calm, rather low-key performance here. Zimmermann and the NDR Elbphilharmonie (renamed from the NDR Sinfonieorchester after the orchestra's new Elbphilharmonie concert hall) are recorded here not in the new building (the recording was made prior to its completion), but in the old Laeiszhalle, the 1908 Musikhalle. It's fine engineering that captures the energy of an extraordinary pair of Shostakovich performances. Highly recommended.

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