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Achingly Beautiful

Leila Josefowicz plays Shostakovich -
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'... her tightrope assurance is breathtaking.'

Leila Josefowicz - Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1; Violin Sonata - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Sakari Oramo - John Novacek. © 2006 Warner Classics

Here's another 'beginning of the end' release from Warner Classics in the year of the label's demise.

What's more, Warner offers a riveting, top-notch account of the Shostakovich 1st Violin Concerto, a work completed in 1948 -- and first performed in 1955 by dedicatee David Oistrakh, two years after the death of Stalin.

Recently the present generation of star fiddlers have seemingly been queuing up to record this remarkable work -- among them Maxim Vengerov, Daniel Hope and Sarah Chang. Hope (also for Warner) has the advantage of Maxim Shostakovich at the podium while Chang turned in a performance, categorised by The Times as a 'rollercoaster ride'.

Now, in this 2006 release, Canadian virtuoso Leila Josefowicz with the CBSO yields to none of the above -- indeed she enters the running with a daring yet thoughtfully considered live version; one erupting with grit and fire, yet tempered with heart-rending melancholy.

Furthermore, Sakari Oramo and the CBSO ... Simon Rattle's former 'band' ... surpass his endlessly-vaunted Berlin Philharmonic which sometimes overshadows Sarah Chang in her brilliant, glowingly clean account (with Prokofiev's Concerto No 1) for EMI.

From the brooding outset of this intense work [listen -- track 1, 0:03-1:50] Josefowicz's bleak, dark colouration is unerringly judged and alongside Chang's purer outlook, effective though that is, Warner's artist is much to be preferred. Shostakovich's melodic opening Nocturne is achingly beautiful when sculpted with such attention to the unsettling tide at its core.

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Copyright © 8 November 2006 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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