The Classics: August 5th

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

My gold medal goes to Scottish-born Benedetti for this inspiring performance.

Ably supported by the orchestra, conducted by Kirill Karabits, from the Ukraine, she is the star in a superb recording.

It shows her technical excellence and musical artistry in fiendishly difficult music to the full.

The soloist has been applauded before for chart-topping successes, with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and Korngold’s Violin Concerto.

Now she has improved even further, showing wonderful assurance and understanding in these two very different 20th-century Russian works.

Shostakovich’s concerto (written in 1947 in the shadows of revolution and war) is a seething and tormented masterpiece, wisely unpublished until after Stalin’s death and not performed until 1955 (by David Oistrakh).

It  has dark, introspective moments, followed by energy, torment and passion, and a massively demanding cadenza, a nightmare for most violinists.

The music progresses from an eerie and introspective Nocturne, labyrinthine and reminiscent of Mahler, to savage Scherzo.

Then the sombre, grand but funereal Passacaglia becomes brightened when the violin enters, leading to the wondrous and lengthy Cadenza.

The final movement, Burlesque, provides a demonic conclusion to this epic: a work of deep melancholy, linked with acerbic wit and the composer’s brittle irony.

The much shorter Glazunov concerto, written in 1904 before the Russian Revolution, is a late-romantic work, notable for its lyricism.

Benedetti gives a radiant performance of the bold and colourful writing, enjoying its opulence with a lush warmth and great beauty of tone throughout.

This disc will be on my permanent playlist.

Recording is crisply clear and deep, with an ideally wide soundstage for the orchestra: gorgeous!

Verdict: Sensational violin performances.

- Geoff Adams

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