SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Concerto 1; String Quartet Op.110 and Prelude Op.87:1 – transcriptions (Baumgartner). Bernd Glemser, Reinhold Friedrich/Lucerne Festival Strings/Achim Fiedler Oehms Classics OC 561

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Christopher Breunig writes: The interest here lies in the pianist Bernd Glemser (whose Rachmaninov programme on OC 558 is not to be missed: it has the Corelli Variations, Sonata 2 and other pieces) and the transcribed string quartet, which might be a way in for those who normally would fight shy of Shostakovich’s chamber works.

The downside is the recorded sound, rather obviously miked yet somewhat confused, and with none of the body of string tone Decca engineers caught with the Moscow Chamber Ensemble back in 1962. Their Bartok/Vivaldi LP comes to mind because it was directed by Rudolf Barshai, who made other well-regarded Shostakovich transcriptions, approved by the composer – the two here are by Rudolf Baumgartner, co-founder of the Lucerne Strings. I say ‘two’ because the Prelude is also given in the plaintive piano original – although the two tracks are not run consecutively: another small black mark to Oehms!

The Concerto is the one with trumpet, and Friedrich is brilliant in the circus music of the finale: this is a very good account, budget-priced too. Whilst conceding that the strings version of the quartet focuses the overlaps with Shostakovich’s symphonies more sharply, I think it also diffuses the painful impact of the original. Maybe in better sound…

The current Penguin Guide suggests that Barshai’s first recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe of his Op.110a rescoring (which he entitled Chamber Symphony 1) is no longer in DG’s catalogue, overlooking its 2005 reissue: 477 5442.

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