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<<  -- 2 --  Howard Smith    ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL


No holds are barred as Josefowicz hurtles ferociously into the Scherzo adopting a brusque, rough, devil-may-care approach. Here she throws caution to the winds with a dazzle and defiance that may well have been considered over-gutsy in a studio recording; in this context her tightrope assurance is breathtaking.

For the Shostakovichian brass chorus that prefaces the soloist's entry in the Passacaglia (3rd movement) the 'Brummie' players adopt a Russian timbre that only Brits can emulate. Nowhere is Josefowicz more impressive than in her exploratory way through this movement; it's almost as if she was picking her way through a chillingly silent minefield [listen -- track 3, 1:55-3:30].

Moreover Shostakovich's incremental cadenza is tackled with an inexorable build-up of energy and momentum so that listeners are whirled into the final headlong Burlesque with a daring and precipitous fury seldom matched on disc. The result is dangerous, charged with adrenaline, and extraordinarily persuasive.

Not only is Josefowicz's performance both contemplative and electrifying; but under Oramo's authoritative direction the CBSO accompaniment is poignantly tempered, consistently detailed, yet always cognisant of an abyss of pain, terror, and desolation that tore at the heart of Russian life as this work was written.

Shostakovich's Violin Sonata Op 134 (1969) is a well-considered coupling and preferable, I believe, to the 2nd Concerto in C minor for its austere economy of texture complements the concerto's intense bi-polarity. Once again we're in tragic territory but here the total exposure of two 'voices' demands even greater listener involvement than his work for orchestra and soloist.

The sonata has a conventional three-movement structure, enlivened by a central Allegretto featuring memorable folk melodies; vividly evoked by this duo. Furthermore the work is notable for including the use of tone-rows in its first movement.

It concludes with a powerful 14-minute largo and here, as the fathomless nature of the music requires, the players scale their voices to a conspiratorial, disembodied whisper [listen -- track 7, 11:36-13:10]. Memorable indeed.

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


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