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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Benedetti Finds The Soul Of Shostakovich

©Simon Fowler
Nicola Benedetti captures the complex emotions of Shostakovich.

About eight minutes into the first movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s first violin concerto, with soloist Nicola Benedetti, the orchestra trades melodies with the solo violin. The whole movement has been a dense musical search, and if it doesn’t exactly open into a clearing, there is a sense of orchestra and soloist working in perfect harmony. I thought to myself, “That’s some pretty good soundboard mixing” until I remembered I was merely listening to a perfect melding of soloist and ensemble! Benedetti’s in sync with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on this album, featuring both the moody Shostakovich and a sparkling concerto by Alexander Glazunov.

Benedetti’s instrument sings over the lyrical Glazunov concerto, a more traditionally Romantic offering on this release. It’s beautiful to be sure, but I found the Shostakovich concerto even more rewarding. Written in the late 1940s, the composer had to shelve his music following theZhdanov decree and his second denunciation by the Soviet Communist party. The opening movement is a brooding Nocturne. Benedetti’s violin shines like the light of a lone lantern on a dense, foggy night. Shostakovich signals right away this isn’t going to be like a traditional concerto, and in fact the whole work eschews the traditional fast-slow-fast three movement form for a four movement concerto plus cadenza.

The second movement had even my children pinpointing the composer’s Russian heritage, as Shostakovich pulls out dance rhythms worthy of Tchaikovsky. The third movement, a stately passacaglia, is the closest the concerto gets to true warmth, and Benedetti lights the emotional fire. It’s a sign of how personally he was taking the music that Shostakovich included his own musical signature in the concerto’s cadenza, then wraps it up with a raucous burlesque movement that finds Benedetti once again matching the Bournemouth Symphony perfectly. It’s great ensemble playing, and tremendously exciting.