The blurbs advertising this album have it wrong: Shostakovich's blazing Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 107, was not a "response" to Prokofiev's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 58, but to its reworking, the Symphony-Concerto for cello and orchestra in E minor, Op. 125. As cellist Steven Isserlis points out in his excellent and enthusiastic notes, it's not even clear that Shostakovich knew the earlier version, which had a rocky performance history. The original concerto and the Symphony-Concerto are very different works, with the Cello Concerto's giant final set of variations essentially sliced in half and greatly simplified. The earlier work, spiky and difficult, makes a good counterpoint to the Shostakovich, one of the works in which he most perfectly married virtuosity to the grim gloom that animates so much of Shostakovich's later work. This concerto does have a real rip-roaring finale that Isserlis manages without a hint that he's doing anything less than having fun. But the real find here is the Prokofiev, which although championed by Mstislav Rostropovich has not often been played. It's a piece that demands the cellist wrestle with its dramatic contrasts in the variation set, and here again Isserlis, with clean backing from the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi, excels. A strong release with a neglected Russian concerto of the 20th century.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 58|
|Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 107|
|Music for Children, Op. 65|