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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Alexander Melnikov: Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concertos

For whatever reason, it took me a while to appreciate the music of Shostakovich in my early listening days. He seemed overshadowed by Stravinsky, Prokofiev and a dozen or so innovative modernist composers that were and still are in currency. Shostakovich struck me as being a somewhat lesser figure.

Eventually I came to know and love the symphonies, and that took a lot of time because there were so many and they embraced such stylistic diversity and evolutionary development. Then came the string quartets and finally the solo piano music. I now appreciate him, though I feel it's still better not to compare but to approach him on his own terms.

I will confess that I've listened to most if not all his concerti repeatedly, but find less there to like. It may just be that I am not focusing enough. I don't dislike the music, but it doesn't linger in my memory either.

Perhaps until now. Pianist Alexander Melnikov takes on in a new recording the Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 102 in F Major, the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and String orchestra Op. 35 in C Minor, and as a bonus, the Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 134 in F Major (Harmonia Mundi). He is accompanied by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Teodor Currentzis.

The Piano Concerto No. 2 is given a specially sensitive reading, with the slow movement sunk in revery, the outer movements bristling with animated grace.

Melnikov quite obviously is the right pianist for the job, and he can startle one with his brilliance. I am glad to have his version of the Opus 35, which seems close to being definitive.

This aspect of Shostakovich's ouevre continues to perculate inside me. I have not entirely converted to its point of view. Melnikov and Company however come as close as I think anybody in convincing me.

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