Shostakovich/Prokofiev Violin Concertos
It might seem perverse of Erato to have sanctioned a recording of the Shostakovich concerto so soon after Maxim Vengerov’s outstanding account for their Teldec stablemate, but young Vadim Repin’s interpretation is quite different in character. Hailing incidentally from Vengerov’s own home town of Novosibirsk in Siberia, Repin has lived in the West for some years and his performance comes across as less quintessentially Russian in its avoidance of rhetorical overkill. Without in any way underplaying the bravura passages (the Scherzo is taken at an incredible speed), he stresses rather the chamber-like intimacy of Shostakovich’s score, frequently ceding pride of place to functionally significant threads in the orchestral writing. I was not entirely comfortable with the flowing tempo for the slow third movement, but, thanks also to Nagano and the Halle, making their first joint appearance on disc, we do actually hear the music as a passacaglia. With Vengerov and Rostropovich intent on heightening strong emotions rather than clarifying textures, the LSO’s contribution is comparatively impenetrable on Teldec. In the “Nocturne” the tam-tam, inaudible in Abbey Road, is perfectly caught in Manchester.
Given Repin’s dazzling achievement in the Shostakovich concerto, his Prokofiev is a shade disappointing. The violin is less sweetly caught and Repin sometimes makes the kind of uningratiating noises which imply some impatience with the straightforward Romeo and Juliet-style lyricism of the work. The finale sounds spontaneous, but, pace Heifetz, the lovely slow movement could do with more space to indulge its sweetly singing lines. The reappearance of the opening melody at 2'41'' is an ugly wrench rather than the ecstatic modulation it is for Kyung-Wha Chung and (to a somewhat lesser extent) those digital rivals listed above.
I wouldn’t wish to end on a sour note. If the coupling appeals, Repin represents a clear first choice – Mullova’s alternative is commanding but cool – and anyone who cares about the Shostakovich will want to hear this disc.'