Shostakovich uncovered

Pianist Marc-André Hamelin performs works from composers Shostakovich and Shchedrin, alongside Litton and the BBC Scottish SO

Composer: Shostakovich and Shchedrin
Repertoire: Piano concertos Nos 1 & 2 (Shostakovich); Piano Concerto No.2 (Shchedrin)
Artists: Marc-André Hamelin (piano), BBC Scottish SO/Andrew Litton
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Instrumental/Orchestral

Shostakovich’s two piano concertos usually come across as sparkling, riotous, satirical works – which they are. But what makes this disc special is the way that Hamelin, Litton and the trumpeter Mark O’Keefe, a crucial soloist in the First Concerto, uncover so much more. In the hyperactive finales, Hamelin rolls up his sleeves and sets to with absolute glee – yet it is the slow movements that carry the real key. The slower than usual tempos and the tenderness of Hamelin’s phrasing reveal the core of vulnerability, betraying the fragility of all that glittering thin ice on either side. Moreover, the tipsy-sounding trumpet solo in No.1’s last movement and the pacing as the tension ratchets up in the finales are brilliantly handled.

Rodion Shchedrin is a post-modern master of his craft: his 1996 Second Concerto has Prokofiev-like brilliance and grittiness, 12-note writing, ‘aleatoric’ (improvisatory) moments for the soloist and more: the way orchestra and soloist sail through the extraordinary shifts from modernism into full-blown jazz in the final movement, Contrasts, is hilarious, frightening  and thrilling.