Alexander Toradze / Paavo Järvi / hr_Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Shostakovich: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

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The continuing advance in the public appreciation of Dmitry Shostakovich's music is nowhere better shown than in the profusion of recordings of the two concertos for piano and orchestra, almost invariably paired with each other. Most have one quality or another to recommend them, and so it is here: the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (or HR-Sinfonieorchester, for Hessische Rundfunk or Hessian Radio) under Paavo Järvi does an extraordinary job. The slow movements of the two concertos, both arch-Romantic melodic interludes despite the sharply differing characters of the concertos' outer movements, have rarely sounded so silky, and the curious instrumentation of the first concerto, with a trumpet as the only wind instrument, is masterfully held together by Järvi. Georgian pianist Alexander Toradze has a fine liquid texture in the slow movements and works together with the orchestra very precisely throughout. The performances in general are close to technical perfection, but they may or may not connect with listeners emotionally. The Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35, is short on its suppressed sense of satire. In the outer movements of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102, one of the few really joyous works Shostakovich ever wrote (he himself said it "possesses neither artistic nor ideal values," but he wasn't he best judge), Toradze seems intent on displaying his considerable chops. The main theme of the finale is taken a bit too fast, faster than performances with which Shostakovich himself was associated, and the little arpeggio, which has considerable structural significance in what follows, is reduced to a kind of grace note. Your mileage may vary, however, and the album is worth considering for the superb orchestral work alone.

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