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For the majority of his composing career, Shostakovich wrote his music in the shadow of the oppressive communist regime of his day.
Many of the Russian composer’s works are taut, angst-ridden and defiant in tone. However, his Piano Concerto No.2 is a gloriously free, wistful creation – particularly in the famous second movement, which guarantees the whole work’s enduring popularity.
The piece was written as a birthday present for Shostakovich’s nineteen-year-old son Maxim – himself an accomplished pianist. Either side of the soulful, heart-wrenching Andante are two vivacious movements, both full of style and an overwhelming sense of fun. Shostakovich apparently hid all sorts of family references within the music – jokes that only he and Maxim would truly understand. The concerto stands miles apart from many of his other works in its sense of freedom and abandon. It was by no means the first piece the composer had written for his children. Ever since his eldest daughter, Galina, had started playing the piano, Shostakovich would compose pieces for her – many of them published together in his Children’s Notebook.
Written in 1957, four years after the death of Stalin, the Second Piano Concerto is an unrestrained delight from start to finish. and it’s surely the best birthday present for which any budding pianist could wish. For our recommendation below, we’ve very much kept it in the family.
Dmitri Shostakovich Jnr (piano); I Musici de Montreal; Maxim Shostakovich (conductor). Chandos: Chan 10565.