Never less than dedicated and sometimes even affectionate, this disc of Shostakovich's music featuring pianist Bernd Glemser and the Festival Strings Lucerne under Achim Fiedler is ultimately quite persuasive. Part of the reason for the disc's success is the inspired coupling of the Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, strings, and trumpet plus the Prelude No. 1 in C major for solo piano joined with transcriptions for string orchestra of the String Quartet No. 8 in C minor plus the Prelude No. 1 done by Lucerne's longtime conductor Rudolf Baumgartner. The contrast of the witty and wild C minor concerto with the haunting and harrowing C minor quartet is marvelous, and the addition of the original and the transcription of the serenely melancholy C major prelude as a transition and coda make the programming here deeply satisfying.
But of course none of this could have happened without the performers. Under Baumgartner, the Festival Strings Lucerne had routinely turned in smoothly polished but strongly sentimental performances, but under new conductor Fiedler, the strings seem reinvigorated, one might even say reinvented, and the playing here is passionate as well as professional. When this recording was made in 2006, pianist Bernd Glemser had little in the way of an international reputation, but his powerful yet sensitive playing here predicted a highly successful career. Baumgartner's transcription of the quartet is perhaps less aggressive and more refined than Rudolf Barshai's composer-authorized arrangement, but it has its points and felicities, as does his coolly beautiful transcription of the prelude. Although Shostakovich enthusiasts will already have their favorite performances of the concerto, this disc will nevertheless be well worth hearing. Oehms' sound is clear if a bit distant.