Shostakovich Piano Concerto Nos. 1 & 2
Moscow-born Andrei Korobeinikov, only in his mid-20s, offers highly competitive accounts of the two Shostakovich concertos. Colourful, agile, sensitive, imaginative in detail and well integrated with the orchestra (whose contribution is itself well above average), his playing has almost everything one could hope for, both here and in the Preludes, which emerge as sharp-etched miniature portraits of the many faces of Shostakovich before the masks of necessary self-preservation contorted them. Admittedly, the acoustic is bordering on over-resonant and Korobeinikov is sometimes on the generous side with his pedalling. Otherwise the only serious quibbles would be with his significant compromise over tempo in the final mini-cadenza of the First Concerto and with his prosaic lead-in to the finale of the Second.
Sadly for him, his disc arrives at the same time as something truly extraordinary. Alexander Melnikov’s Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues (8/10) have rightly garnered high praise. But his new disc of the concertos and the Violin Sonata is something else. The Second Concerto is placed first, which seems a curious choice until the revelation of the performance itself. The hide-and-seek games between piano and orchestra in the first movement are delectable enough. But then the slow movement…to call this breathtaking would be an understatement. Starting at a whisper, Melnikov fines his sound down to the threshold of audibility and extends phrase-endings until the world seems to stand still. All this goes far beyond anything in the score or in the composer’s own recordings. For me, this is Shostakovich-playing on a level of inspiration I have only heard in my dreams. In the finale, undertones of sarcasm and aggression are given full value. The First Concerto is scarcely less inspired. Jereon Berwaerts’s trumpet plays straight man to Melnikov’s quicksilver changes of mood, and Teodor Currentzis and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra are full participants in what must be one of the most creative dialogues in the work’s recorded history.
In the Violin Sonata, Melnikov becomes the responsible, philosophically minded chamber partner this dark masterpiece demands. The violin part can perhaps take an even larger personality and wider range of colour than Isabelle Faust brings to it. Even so, the bite of the scherzo and the craziness of the finale’s later variations are fully realised. Melnikov himself supplies a thoughtful essay and the recording quality is top-drawer. The disc as a whole is outstanding, not only in the category of recent concerto recordings but in the Shostakovich discography as a whole.