Review: “Superb Stuff” Arts Desk’s Shostakovich/Glazunov Album

Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No.1, Glazunov: Violin Concerto Nicola Benedetti (violin), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits(Decca)

So many decent recordings of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No.1 have appeared in recent years, and here’s another. James Ehnes was given superb support from Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and the same team accompany Nicola Benedetti on this disc. Lower strings are superb in the Nocturne’s shadier corners, Benedetti’s tone suitably parched. The scherzo’s rhythms are brilliantly sprung, but it’s the haunting, deeply-felt “Passacaglia” which makes this performance work. Karabits knows how to tighten the screws, the movement’s centre both harrowing and exhilarating. A gutsy cadenza leads into an exuberant “Burlesque”, Benedetti catching the anger and the joy. Decca’s recording is spectacular, allowing us to appreciate what a good orchestra this is.

An unusual but apt coupling is the Violin Concerto by Shostakovich’s teacher Glazunov. Formally striking and melodically rich, it’s gorgeously played here, Benedetti’s big-hearted approach matched by refulgent tutti playing. Solo winds are outstanding in the Andante sostenuto, and the bubbly finale is delightful. There’s a tingle-inducing passage about four minutes in, the soloist briefly accompanied by tuned percussion. Benedetti and Karabits are exceptional, the music’s unpretentious joie de vivre utterly irresistible. Superb stuff.