Shostakovich: The Cello Concertos

Gautier Capuçon / Valery Gergiev

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Shostakovich: The Cello Concertos Review

by James Manheim

Though presented as a planned set, this pair of Shostakovich cello concertos actually consists of live concerts, the first in Paris and the second in St. Petersburg, at the Mariinsky Theater. They have the electricity of good live concerts, and they're beautifully recorded. They're also stronger in some places than in others, and if you're sampling, keep going for a bit: you may find things you like a great deal. To these ears it's the places where cellist Gautier Capuçon interacts with conductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra in complex ways. The long slow movement of the Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107 is one of those to these ears, with great subtlety in the balance of the cello and the orchestra, mostly broken up into solos and small groups. Capuçon is an elegantly lyrical player, and the slow opening movement of the Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 126 is luxuriantly beautiful. In the faster movements, if you're looking for that bit of venom that often pokes through in late Shostakovich, you'll find it in very short supply. Perhaps this is due to Gergiev's newly awakened pro-Russian attitudes, or perhaps the players collectively wanted to produce a more Western-oriented cello concerto pair to compete with the numerous all-Russian recordings on the market. It's not right or wrong, just something to be aware of. A worthwhile live Shostakovich release from a charismatic cellist and a veteran conductor.

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