SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concertos
Mstislav Rostropovich will always rule the roost in ‘his’ concertos (multiple accounts of the First remain in circulation and his 1975 studio recording of the Second for DG has lately returned to the lists courtesy of Australian Eloquence), but pairings of these two great works keep on coming. Not the least of the attractions of the present disc is the vivid modern sound achieved in St Petersburg’s Melodiya Studio. That said, given the overwhelming number of St Petersburg orchestras recording under flags of convenience, I was a little sceptical about the band. It would appear to be the successor institution to the Orchestra of Ancient and Modern Music established in 1967 which occasionally featured on Soviet-era LPs. Oboist-turned-maestro Vladimir Lande is its assistant conductor and he certainly secures a lively response.
The project must stand or fall by its soloist and fortunately Dmitry Kouzov, a Russian player with an academic post in the US and several CDs under his belt, has the requisite technique and weight of tone as well as distinctive ideas about how the music should go. Faster than most of his peers in both scores, his quick-fire treatment of the First Concerto’s opening movement (it is marked Allegretto) neither reduces its scale nor gives an impression of insectile buzzing. Indeed, he makes a stronger case for this kind of approach than Enrico Dindo or even Heinrich Schiff. Intonation slips barely at all. Although others set greater store by lyrical expansiveness in the slow movement, the emotive force of the argument is not undersold.
In Shostakovich’s cryptic, introverted companion piece, the initial Largo is again kept on a tightish rein yet the finale’s eruptive, whipcrack-punctuated climax proves quite as disturbing as it needs to be. Daniel Müller-Schott is perhaps more personal, certainly more refined in his spacious ruminations. Still, you won’t regret checking out Kouzov’s beefier brand of eloquence. My recurring complaint about the legibility of booklet-notes doesn’t apply here either. Delos favours outsize if unappealing typefaces.