Berlin Classics CD 0183632BC . Released 2003.
Author – Jerry
This is one of my favorite pieces of music – deeply moving, devastatingly so at times. It’s a harrowing journey of anger, despair and unbearable sadness – as well as exquisite beauty.
It’s a reflection of the terrible times that Shostakovich, along with so many others, endured in Stalin’s Russia.
The soloist on this CD is Michael Erxleben. I’d not come across him before, but given the performance here, he needs fear comparisons with no-one.
The heart, and special distinctiveness of this particular performance, is the Passacaglia slow movement. With most performances it is about 12 minutes long. Erxleben takes just short of 21 minutes. Slow, boring, tedious, just plain bizarre? No. It is supremely exquisite, the silences are as unbearably poignant as any of the notes or chords played. The solo violin line, often unaccompanied, hangs suspended in infinite space – unimaginably beautiful, and so sad, so very sad. I know of no other performance of any music that moves and engages me so much.
I don’t mean to dismiss the other 3 movements, but they are excellent in a much more conventional sense, toeing the line tempo-wise with many others. And none the worse for that, of course.
Shostakovich fans who visit Jerry Towers are often played the Passacaglia slow movement from this recording – 21 minutes of rapt and amazed attention always result. This has to be a Desert Island Disc for me.
The Shostakovich concerto is partnered on this disc with the Concerto Funebre by Hartmann. It’s good, but I am so devastated after the Shostakovich that it rarely gets a listen!
Sound quality is excellent – with real transparency and dynamic clout. It’s highly resolved and the violin is captured very clearly, with a quite close-up perspective that ensures the listener’s undivided attention.
Musical Interest: 10
Sound Quality: 9