Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra piano concerto was written in the summer of 1933, when the composer was only 26 years old, and just a few weeks after the completion of his opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”, a work which got him in seriously hot water with Stalin’s cultural minions.

It is a lively, joyful composition that pokes good natured fun at a number of musical styles. Originally meant to be a double concerto, it eventually became a hybrid: a not-too-difficult for the most part concerto for piano with a sort of trumpet obbligato that runs away with the show in the last movement.

Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony, which premiered on November 3, 1945 just two months after the end of the Second World War, was a different matter. Unlike that of the patriotic Seventh Symphony, “Leningrad”, the music of the Ninth failed to convince the critics, who were expecting to hear a celebratory, patriotic work and instead heard a musically complex work tempered at times by unfettered joy.

But that was Shostakovich, a musical rebel who, living in very difficult times, managed to survive Stalin and his censors by writing the kind of music he damned well wanted to write and playing dumb when questioned.

Structured in five moments, the Ninth is idiosyncratic in many ways: its movements are brief and to the point. Its orchestration is vintage Shostakovich, dense at times, utterly clear at others, and ever inventively original. As in earlier works, the composer flirts here with atonality but ever in his sui generis way, and always generally melodic.

In this superb BR KLASSIK (BRK900202) the late Mariss Janssons brilliantly leads the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, giving the superb trumpeter Hannes Läubin and the great Yefim Bronfman plenty of room to shine as soloists in the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra.

Rafael de Acha    ALL ABOUT THE ARTS