SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concertos
Truls Mørk signs in at the opening of Shostakovich’s First Concerto with a fine combination of swiftness and grit, helped by a recorded balance that places him well to the fore. Both his playing and his interpretation are of a quality that immediately demands comparison with the finest on disc, so that choice becomes largely a matter of personal preference.
He and Petrenko certainly find the combination of weight and impetus that is de rigueur in these pieces. There is, perhaps, a fraction less effort and struggle, and a touch more precision, than with Müller-Schott and Kreizberg. And in that respect Mørk is closer to Heinrich Schiff than to the other listed comparisons. Maisky is alone is romanticising his way around corners, which I find hard to take on repeated hearing.
I was surprised at Mørk’s smooth glissando octaves in the Second Concerto, where others get closer to the notated articulation and to more dramatic effect. But that really is just an isolated moment. Far more important is the sweep and large-scale integrity of both performances. The Oslo Philharmonic’s contributions are outstanding, with top-class horn obbligatos in the first concerto. The ‘Bartók’ pizzicatos around 4'00" in the first movement of the First Concerto may not be in the score but they are certainly effective.
Two issues nag at the back of my mind. The obvious one is that Rostropovich set the bar so high with his classic recordings (now in so many incarnations as to defy listing, though not available on a single disc). No one covers the emotional gamut from dazed fragility to militant defiance with the sheer authority he does. Less obviously, the closeness of the Ondine recording comes at the expense of natural acoustic perspective, making some of the tuttis more noisy than vehement.