Following their immensely successful release of the first concertos of these two composers on Teldec 4509-92256-2, Maxim Vengerov and Mstislav Rostropovich have combined their efforts for another incredible pair of performances. With different personalities but comparable technical and musical challenges, these works are again brilliantly and effortlessly presented. On this disc, Vengerov performs on the 1723 "ex-Kiesewetter" Stradivarius violin.
Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, like his first, predates his encounters with Stalinist repression and is a fresh, enthusiastic work. Larger in scope than the earlier concerto, it demands power in its near-symphonic passages -- and Vengerov supplies power in abundance. The work is also less self-consciously advanced in style than the first concerto, so Vengerov is able to open his tone to Romantic proportions in its extended lyrical passages. The effect is warm yet still thoroughly characteristic of Prokofiev, expressive at every turn. The barbarically difficult finale, with its bizarre bass drum/solo violin duet, is pure dynamite!
Shostakovich's second -- and last -- violin concerto is a product of his later years; free of the fear and anger which fueled the first one, it is a modest work. Still, Vengerov infuses it with both expression and dignity, with the result that it comes off as the contemplative essay it was meant to be. Vengerov and Rostropovich allow the work to be both cerebral and bombastic, as appropriate. Vengerov's tone, as produced on his priceless instrument, is rich and magnificent.
The Teldec recording is open, well-balanced, and flawless. Particularly effective are the stereo sound stage and placement of the soloist. The brilliance and power of soloist and violin are showcased perfectly, making this as technically impressive a recording of a violin concerto as can be imagined.