For this three-disc set of Shostakovich's concertos, EMI has chosen Mikhail Rudy's recordings of the two piano concertos, David Oistrakh's recording of the First Violin Concerto, Dmitry Sitkovetsky's recording of the Second Violin Concerto, Paul Torteiler's recording of the First Cello Concerto, and Truls Mørk's recording of the Second Cello Concerto. This makes for nice variety, but the quality of the performances runs the gamut from definitive to barely acceptable, and so the collection as a whole struggles to succeed. Oistrakh's harrowing account of the First Violin Concerto is among the finest ever made, for instance, as is Mørk's Second Cello Concerto. But at the other end of the spectrum, Rudy's piano concertos are perfunctory, and Sitkovetsky's ho-hum Second Violin Concerto is hard to live with.
The frustrating thing is that EMI has top-notch performances of all of these works in the can, so if it had chosen to, it could have created a truly definitive collection. Oistrakh recorded both violin concertos, Mstislav Rostropovich both cello concertos, and Shostakovich himself both piano concertos -- and all for EMI. Though the sound is in some cases fairly aged, all these recordings are well worth seeking out by anyone who loves the composer.