Shostakovich rescued!

Born in 2006 with a mission to rescue and reissue recordings lost in the disappearance or downsizing of labels (Olympia, Melodiya, Unicorn, Vanguard) as well as early recordings of still-with-us Decca, EMI, Deutsche Graophon and Sony/CBS, Alto makes good on its word with a series of recorded treasures being released this month.

The 1933 Concerto No. 1 in C minor for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra has the composer at his raucous, irreverent best, toying with the unlikely pairing of piano and trumpet as almost-equal partners supported by a string orchestra.

With its plethora of musical puns, off-the-wall quotes and dash-to-the-end tempi the C minor concerto is a hilarious, exhilarating tour de force played for all its worth in this Columbia recording re-issue with Leonard Bernstein leading the NY Philharmonic Orchestra with Andre Previn as the piano soloist.

The single-movement Concertino in A minor for 2 pianos was composed and premiered in 1953 by Shostakovich father and son. It is again a bravura test piece given a terrific reading here by the composer and son, Maxim.

The 1957 Piano Concerto No.2 in F major is one of Shostakovich’s signature works, even if for some inexplicable reason the composer downplayed its merits. Written for his nineteen year old piano prodigy son, the work exudes optimism notwithstanding the presence of sweeping minor mode melancholy utterances from the strings in the middle movement. Here the multi-talented Leonard Bernstein is both soloist and conductor.

The Alto release of a group of Shostakovich works is a harbinger of more good things to come from this enterprising label.

Rafael de Acha