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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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I had recently reviewed the newish release of the two Shostakovich Piano Concertos played by Marc-André Hamelin. Raved about them, in fact. They were coupled with the all-but-unknown Second Piano Concerto by Rodion Shchedrin, which I'd never heard before but fell in love with. I honestly didn't think I'd hear better performances of the Shostakovich pieces anywhere - and that's saying a lot, considering that virtuosi like Bronfman and Dimitry Alexeyev have recorded them in the last few years. Elisabeth Leonskaja is a pianist I'd only vaguely known of before a friend introduced me to her recording of the Brahms First Concerto; I was stunned at the beauty and brains of her playing. It wouldn't be the usual Brahms player who could make the switch to Shostakovich easily. Brahms is weighty and in these two concertos Shostakovich is, for the most part, the class clown. I'm happy to report that Leonskaja makes the transition beautifully. These performances are light-hearted and deeply felt at the same time. If anything, the second movement of the Second Concerto is better than Hamelin's or anyone else's that I've ever heard. When I first heard it I had to play it three times in a row because I was reluctant to leave it, it's THAT gorgeous. In the concerto she is helped immensely by the fine playing of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra under Hugh Wolff. In that slow movement the muted strings are simply ravishing. Each time I hear the attacca beginning of the last movement, with its silly, gimpy headlong 7/16 insistence, I laugh out loud. The trumpet soloist in the First Concerto is Gary Bordner. His playing is stunning.
Shostakovich's Second Sonata is definitely NOT of a piece with the two concerti. It is a big, introspective, mostly spare essay in Shostakovich's polyphonic style. If you know his Préludes and Fugues, you'll have some idea of the style. Leonskaja plays magisterially here, never afraid to let Shostakovich's spareness tempt her to rush the second and third movements. Very nice, indeed.
Scott Morrison
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on 8 October 2010
I always loved Christina Ortiz' wonderfully sensitive account of the both concertos (EMI), but Leonskaja's performances surpass it in terms of power and verve of the outer movements. Her pianism is more masculine. The beautiful 2nd movement of the 2nd concerto is played very slowly(6'55") with exquisite tonal subtlety and the rapt serenity and poignancy of the melody beautifully captured.

Today, with the emergence of Hamelin's brilliant Hyperion recording of the both concertos and Oleg Marshev's even more moving and slower account of the 2nd movement of 2nd conceto (7'46"), it is hard to pick the definitive 'Building a library' performance, but Leonskaja's version still has its own stunning moments and is well worth adding to your collection.

The rarely performed, very original masterpiece, Shostakovich's 2nd piano sonata makes a wonderful filler.

DDD 1991/1992
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Elizabeth Leonskaja and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra may not be as well known or famous as other performers, but on the basis of this recording alone, they should be.
Elizabeth Leonskaja gives a stunningly beautiful performance on piano. She gives us passion and emotion in her rendition of the piano concertos. It is clear that she puts clarity and accuracy as her priority.
I would say that she has a wide colouristic range. There is real subtleness in parts and strong recognition of melody in others.
She is given high quality backing from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra with Hugh Wolf and an outstanding performance by Gary Borden on trumpet (concerto one).
The recording of the piano concertos alone is worth the investment in this disc. But there is the bonus of the Piano Sonata No2. Once again Leonskaja illustrates her masterly control and her energetic ability.
The sound and engineering are excellent with depth and clarity. And the current price band makes this a priority release.
Without a doubt this is a fantastic release and you cannot go wrong with this recording.
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I bought this and the CD featuring the Christina Ortez of the Concerto no 2 expecting the latter to be better as I am a great admirer of Ortez. I was wrong! This is the standout version, a lovely clean and clear recording with stunning orchestral and piano playing. Very, very exciting performance and it's going to be on my CD player a lot over the next few weeks!

If you haven't got this then buy it even if you have other performances.
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on 20 October 2012
I'm no expert with classical music discs but know what I like, sound wise. This is a clean and sharp production, maybe not quite as 'lush' as I expected. I would however certainly recommend this cd to anyone wanting these two concertos, and at a very good price.
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on 20 November 2015
Not the best of Shostakovich music and the piece I bought it for is not the best version I have ever heard by a long way
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on 26 July 2014
Bought as a present for an elderly gentleman who told me his delighted.
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on 10 November 2015
elizabeth leonskaja is a quite exceptional pianist
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