Andrey Gugnin / Constantine Orbelian

Shostakovich: Piano Concertos 1 & 2; Nine Preludes

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Can an 18-year-old kid with red hair and freckles really play the piano concertos of Dmitry Shostakovich? Sure, why not? The Second Concerto was written by a composer with red hair and freckles for a 19-year-old kid who happened to be his son to show off his technique while the First Concerto was written by a 27- year-old composer who happened to be young, in love, and newly married to impress his blushing bride -- what, then, could be more appropriate for an 18-year-old Russian than to turn to Shostakovich's piano concertos? Andrey Gugnin, the freckled redhead in question, has a huge tone, a polished technique, and an apparently inexhaustible passion for playing the piano. His performances here are breathtaking in their virtuosity -- listen to his steely fingered double octaves in the First Concerto's Moderato -- and awe-inspiring in their audacity -- listen to his full-throttle tempo changes in the First Concerto's closing Allegro con brio. The Moscow Chamber Orchestra led by Constantine Orbelian accompanies Gugnin with skill and tact, going with him wherever he decides to go, and Delos catches the performances in its trademark big, bold, and deep sound. The addition of Nine Preludes from Shostakovich's 24 Preludes for piano, Op. 34, transcribed for chamber orchestra by Rudolf Barshai -- the violist turned conductor who has also orchestrated several of Shostakovich's string quartets -- is interesting enough for an occasional listening, but nowhere near on the same level as Gugnin's concerto performances.

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