SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concertos
Anna Vinnitskaya not only plays the Concerto for piano, trumpet and strings with consummate agility and clarity, she also directs the very spruce-sounding Kremerata Baltica and the woodwind of the Dresden Staatskapelle. This is an achievement in itself, and caps should be doffed accordingly. Her playing is slightly softer-grained than some but that is no bad thing. The composer himself may have been more brittle in touch and more abandoned in phrasing, but a more level-headed approach brings out perfectly valid alternative shades of meaning.
Vinnitskaya’s booklet statement makes much of the importance of what lies behind the facade of the Second Concerto, a work she has apparently played from the age of 11. This is a truism, maybe, but reasonable enough. Again, her approach is poetically inflected without ever descending into slushiness, and she could never be accused of ugliness of tone or of using the piece as a vehicle for empty display. The only problem is that Alexander Melnikov, for one, has gone a good deal further in probing for subtext, and he does so with a wider range of touch, a stronger personal presence and, especially in the slow movement, greater imaginative daring. As for the fast movements, with Vinnitskaya the music glows; with Melnikov it ignites.
These days the two concertos alone would be regarded as seriously short measure. But what to put with them is not an easy choice. Two of Shostakovich’s pieces for two pianos are a perfectly reasonable offering and they are here dispatched with winning vivacity. It seems ungrateful to note that there would have been room for the early Suite, Op 6, as well; but in a crowded marketplace this would certainly have made for a stronger unique selling point.