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The closest to Shostakovich's own recordings with Cluytens
on 10 June 2013
This recording, well recorded in 1985, displays a close family resemblance to the recording that Shostakovich 'pere' made of his own two concertos with Cluytens. That had a natural sparkle coupled with a lyrical simplicity that has been unmatched by any other recording other than this and the first concerto on a companion disc.
This is not entirely surprising as the second concerto was written for Maxim as a 19th birthday present and was frequently played by father and son. Maxim therefore knows exactly what his father had in mind, and that was not a virtuoso show-piece as it is often played. In this performance conducted by Maxim we hear Dmitri Shostakovich 2, grandson of the composer, playing the solo part. This is without doubt the closest to the original that I have heard.
The same can be said of the companion disc with the first concerto similarly coupled with the string orchestra transcription made by Barshai of, in this case the 10th quartet, and in the other case the 8th quartet. Both the quartet transcriptions met with the full approval of Shostakovich to the extent that he even gave them associated opus numbers to be listed among his original works. In this case, as with the companion disc, the playing is perfectly attuned and receives a sufficiently fine performance as to rival the usual string quartet original.
I would suggest that this disc and the companion are both sufficiently fine, despite short playing time, to warrant serious consideration for purchase. By buying these two discs the purchaser will get as close as possible to the original recordings, which I still treasure, but in good stereo sound. Shostakovich's own recordings, on one disc, are in good mono sound, made at a time when most recordings were automatically made in stereo. An amazingly inept decision by someone who should have known better.