DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Shostakovich: ‘An Essential Record, Five Star From Start To Finish’

By Norman Lebrecht on June 26, 2020

Ibragimova-Shostakovich-_Violin_concertos_

Shostakovich: Violin concertos 1&2

★★★★★

🎧  Apple Music | Amazon

Let me take you into the process by which new releases get selected for review – at least by me who for years has reviewed just one album a week. The process is not scientific, but I’ll describe it as best I can. Monday morning I face two towering piles of CDs.

First, I reject the known knowns — famous artists recording familiar repertoire, and probably not for the first time. They won’t have much to say that changes the state of my world.

Then it’s the turn of the unknown unknowns, where both the composer and artist are extremely obscure and neither has the weight to advocate for the other. Sorry, but no.

Next to go are artists who have failed to impress me in the past. I don’t see the point of wasting my platform on dismissive reviews, so listening to a voice that I have previously found unappealing does no good either to me or to the performer.

Finally, there are whatever boundaries I have set myself within a particular time frame. In the three months of COVID, I decided to review only music from the late-20th and early 21st century, not out of masochism but because this is a marvellous opportunity to expose myself and my readers to repertoire that lies outside the regular concert tramlines.

That said, this week, I am breaking two of my rules. The Shostakovich concertos are well-known and the prolific Anglo-Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova is someone I have not warmed to before. Nothing personal. Her technique is secure and her tone agreeable but I have never found in her playing that edge of distinction — the kaleidoscope of unexpected colours — that separates the foremost violinists from the rest.

Until this week when her playing of the two Shostakovich concertos gave a wholly new dimension to my appreciation of the works. Both were written for David Oistrakh at periods of extreme tension – the first in 1948 when the composer was being attacked by Stalin’s lackeys for unacceptable ‘formalism’, and the second in 1967 when the soloist was under pressure to join the Soviet regime’s anti-Zionist propaganda. Oistrakh summons a serenity in his playing that, while achieved through gritted teeth, has become the definitive sound.

Ibragimova, accompanied by a Russian orchestra and the conductor Vladimir Jurowsky, blows that apart with flashes of rage and bleak pity. The long cadenza at the end of the third movement of the first concerto is a soliloquy on a blood-stained landscape, a passage so lengthy that Oistrakh persuaded the composer to give him a break at the start of the finale. Ibragimova reverses this revision and plays, for the first time, as Shostakovich intended.

In the second concerto the tenderness of her tone is, at times, so elegiac as to amount to an act of mourning for ruined lives. The orchestra, reduced in size, is an echo chamber for the mortally ill composer’s innermost thoughts, those reflections dispelled in the finale by one of his macabre madcap dances. This is an essential record, five star from start to finish.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on classical music and opera news and reviews? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for all the latest.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

FEATURE | No More Whispers: Opera’s Reckoning With Racism

By Brian Chang on June 24, 2020

At the beginning of June, an unnamed group of people started an Instagram account called Opera is Racist to spark a conversation in the industry — and it's working.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

THE SCOOP | Toronto Symphony Cancels Previously Announced 2020-21 Season

By Michael Vincent on July 6, 2020

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has announced the cancellation of all previously scheduled 2020/21 season events.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

THE SCOOP | Tapestry Opera Shines With 13 Nominations At 2020 Dora Awards

By Michael Vincent on June 8, 2020

Announced today, the 2020 Dora Awards has released a total of 243 nominations across six divisions.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.