This CD containing Shostakovich's two piano concertos and his rarely-recorded Hamlet Suite is outstanding in every respect. This version of the Hamlet Suite (well representing Shostakovich's "light" side) is hard to find on disc, which immediately increases the appeal of this CD. The excellent playing of the Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss which, though a smaller ensemble than many of the major symphony orchestras, plays on the level of the best of the best, especially under conductor Lavard Skou-Larsen, adds to the album's appeal. The magnificent sound quality which the label, CPO, provides, pretty much seals the deal.
To top all this off, we have the most compelling accounts I have heard of Shostakovich's two piano concertos. Pianist Valentina Igoshina, whose performances I am otherwise unfamiliar with, contributes the most sensitive and, when need be, thrilling, playing these concertos have yet to receive. While Yefim Bronfman is very exciting in the outer movements, he is less convincing in the slow movements. Igoshina paces the fast movements just right--they are manic without being insane. The slow movements, especially the romantic one in the Second Concerto, are played with such delicacy and care that they immediately win over the listener. Igoshina's playing is, quite simply, pitch-perfect. Never too much peddle, never too drawn-out, never too sentimental--and yet never feeling rushed either. Her musicality in these concertos is as good as it gets. I had not previously loved Shostakovich's piano concertos as much as I did his string concertos, but with Igoshina's performances, now I do. (Judging by these performances, it would be nice to hear Igoshina perform the Prokofiev piano concertos.) The orchestra provides excellent accompaniment and the trumpet soloist in the First Concerto is very good.
Given this album's strong merits, I do not understand why the label chose the cover art that it did. (I will not describe it, since it is visible on Amazon.) I do not know how it is connected to the music or what purpose it serves. Barring that, this CD is, quite simply, musical perfection. If you want to hear the lighter side of Shostakovich, this album is a perfect start. If you already enjoy his piano concertos, this CD is an absolute must-own.