March 2003

Concerto for Piano, Trumpet & Strings;
Piano Concerto no. 2;
24 Preludes, Op. 34
Oleg Marshev (piano)
Helsingborg SO/ Hannu Lintu
Danacord DACOCD 601

Concerto for Piano, Trumpet & Strings;
Piano Concerto no.2;
Concerto for Piano, Timpani & Strings
Ingrid Jacoby (piano), RPO/Charles Mackerras
Dutton CDSA 4804

Danacord’s Shostakovich disc was the second I heard this year, and it already looks like being one of the best – which is hard on the fine rival Jacoby and Mackerras. So what bowls me over about Marshev and company? First, perhaps amazement at the sophisticated high standards not only from the soloist but from a regional Swedish orchestra and a Finnish conductor who do everything in their power to make the phrases leap off the printed page. You only have to hear the piano land on the head of an especially vivid trumpeter in the opening bars of the First Concerto, or the unsurpassably characterful bassoons at the start of the Second, to know the kind of company Shostakovich is keeping here. And Marshev a phenomenon: master of every mood from strip-cartoon crispness to thundering monster, but above all a controlling sensibility of intelligence and feeling.

Jacoby inevitably sounds two-dimensional by comparison. Her scrupulous concern for articulation loses the momentum in all outer movements except the finale of the Second Concerto (dazzling in a tandem with the precise energy of Mackerras and the RPO), and while she tries hard to keep the sentimental pastiche of the Second ‘s slow movement in focus, Marshev simply hypnotises us into sharing the dream. You should buy the Dutton disc to hear the Ustvolskaya Concerto – steely-powerful, with a performance to match, though as an early work in Shostakovich’s shadow by no means as uncompromising as her later music.

Marshev weaves rainbow colours from Shostakovich’s Op. 34 Preludes, but even he can’t disguise the fact that the whole sequence exposes slim inspiration. Still, his concerto performances join Shostakovich (EMI) and the dazzling Bronfman (RCA) right at the top of the list.


David Nice