Shostakovich Cello Concertos Nos 1 and 2
Though Mstislav Rostropovich may still rule the roost in ‘his’ concertos, none of his recordings can boast modern sound, let alone SACD encoding. Enrico Dindo, a student of Antonio Janigro who was for many years principal cellist at La Scala, won acclaim as ‘a cellist of exceptional qualities’ with ‘a splendid Italian voice’ when he took First Prize at the Rostropovich Competition in Paris in 1997. The present Chandos/Danish Radio co-production places that voice in a typically spacious acoustic but technical fallibility can mar its projection of bravura passages and all is not quite as it should be elsewhere.
In the ubiquitous First Concerto the decision to opt for a fast, nimble opening is daring – I don’t recall a racier tempo. For me at least the stunt proves self-defeating, the music’s emotional burden undersold. Worse, the Danish woodwind sound distinctly unsettled. Did Noseda ask his players for a bald, Soviet-style sonority? If so, the effect too often registers as poor tuning. Lyrical passages are more sensitively handled, the finale again notably propulsive. The tendency for this music to degenerate into moto perpetuo insectile buzz is unfortunately not resisted here.
Competition is fierce indeed. Heinrich Schiff is a safer bet if you are looking for an assured speed merchant in No 1, while his pupil, Daniel Müller-Schott, is appreciably more spacious and exceptionally well accompanied in the still elusive Second Concerto. There’s less to query in Enrico Dindo’s tauter reading of that work, yet inevitably his music-making pales beside the power, eloquence and sheer wildness of Rostropovich’s early live accounts. Once you’ve lived with the staggering Shostakovich officially unveiled in the set devoted to the cellist’s ‘Russian Years’ (EMI, 5/97) and now somewhat misleadingly subsumed in a box entitled ‘The Complete EMI Recordings’, it is difficult to settle for anything less.