Recordings such as this superb one serve to remind us that though we may think we know the output of the major composers, there are still treasures to be discovered. Works for individual instruments find their way into recital programs but often lie in shadow of the 'big works' for the concert.
Ondine's successful partnership with violinist Christian Tetzlaff continues with a new release. The new recording contains the two Violin Concertos by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), two powerful works by the composer originally written for David Oistrakh. Christian Tetzlaff has been considered as one of the world's leading international violinists for many years, and still maintains a most extensive performing schedule. Musical America named him "Instrumentalist of the Year" in 2005 and his recording of the violin concertos by Mendelssohn and Schumann, released on Ondine in 2011 (ODE 1195-2), received the "Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik". Tetzlaff's recording of the Mozart Violin Sonatas (ODE 1204-2) was chosen Gramophone Magazine's Editor's Choice and Recording of the Month by the BBC Music Magazine. Tetzlaff's previous release on Ondine featuring the Schumann Violin Sonatas (ODE 1205-2) was also chosen Disc of the Month by the Gramophone Magazine.
James Ehnes, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and its charismatic music director Kirill Karabits went directly to the studio to record these two great 20th-century concertos after performing them in concerts the Observer described as ‘extraordinary’. Of the Shostakovich, the paper went on to say ‘the brilliant James Ehnes … apparently encountering no technical problems in this hazardously difficult work, transmitted its mood of bitter melancholy and dry-eyed grief with alert, responsive support from the orchestra’.
These live recordings from 1985 are fantastic treasures. The Moscow Studio Archives release may now be unavailable – perhaps this Regis version is now easier to obtain. Oleg Kagan plays the Violin Sonata (1968) and Yuri Bashmet plays the Viola Sonata (1975), which was Shostakovich's last work, both accompanied by the great Sviatoslav Richter on piano…
Baiba Skride (1981-) is a Latvian classical violinist. She was the winner of the Queen Elisabeth Violin Contest in 2001, and has performed around the world. Her new album offers a very own, but absolutely sensible mix and uses her concert-experience to its advantage – recorded live at Munich, this captures Skride in a pensive and yet explosive mood. The dark waters of the first movement of Shostakovich’ Vilolin Concerto are juxtaposed with a fulminant follow-up, while the saddened sighs of the “Passacaglia” dissolve into a cold, yet ethereal solo. Monumental and massive, this is like a musical totem. Janacek’s “The Wandering of a Little Soul” is equally intense, offering naive folk-melodies in one instant, nerve-wracking, almost minimal-music-like movements and fiery erruptions in the other.
Third release on Ondine by the Austrian star violinist Benjamin Schmid contains fresh arrangements of well-known piano pieces by Shostakovich and Prokofiev for violin and piano. Also included is a suite transcribed from Kurt Weill's iconic ‘The Threepenny Opera'. All the three original works by the composers were written during the 1910s and 1920s.