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A fascinating coupling. Hyperion has previously coupled the Shostakovich Concertos with Shchedrin’s Second (Hamelin): here it is the Fifth that completes the disc. The sound is state-of-the-art. Matsuev has previously recorded the Shostakovich First with Yuri Temirkanov (RCA, 2006) and there is clearly much experience to his reading.

Here, the opening piano melody carries great weight; in fact the whole movement is serious, with skittering passages deliberately unflighty. The trumpeter, Timor Martynov, is of the very first rank. One notices the orchestral contribution more than on most accounts thanks to Gergiev’s handling, and indeed there is the suspicion here of the orchestra being more special than the pianist, particularly in the hushed, concentrated Lento. The Second Concerto finds the orchestra sharp as a pin, while Matsuev reminds us of Shostakovich’s reverence of Bach in the fizzing counterpoint.

Matsuev has previously recorded the Shchedrin on RCA (with Mariss Jansons) and performed it with Gergiev (with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in 2010). At the Barbican, Matsuev’s tone had a tendency to harden at louder levels. On the present disc this is almost eradicated, so that what is left is Matsuev’s enviable fluency. The first movement might be described as dark, conspiratorially whispered Shostakovich. Gergiev evokes the frozen wastes of the slow movement expertly, while Matsuev approaches the hell-for-leather abandon of his live performance in the finale’s cadenza.

Despite the excellent Shostakovich performances, it is the Shchedrin that makes this disc an essential purchase.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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