SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107; Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40 – Han-Na Chang, cello/ London Symphony Orchestra/ Antonio Pappano, piano and conductor – EMI Classics

by | Jan 26, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107; Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40 – Han-Na Chang, cello/ London Symphony Orchestra/ Antonio Pappano, piano and conductor – EMI Classics 0946 3 32422 2,  57:08 ***:

Sleek and virile renditions of Shostakovich cello staples, recorded 12 June 2005 by young virtuoso Han-Na Chang and the ever-active Antonio Pappano. The E-flat Concerto, conceived 1959, permits Chang to show off her alternately robust and suavely poignant tone and technique, and Pappano’s orchestral contribution is equally animated. Like Schumann, Shostakovich uses personal and political anagrams to tighten the structure of his piece, all along making bitter, ironic passes at contemporary politics. The A Minor second movement, Moderato, floats in space, a haunted meditation.  It becomes quite agitated, rising to a big chord for cello and bass drum, then eerie harmonics and pipings from the winds and battery.

If the First Violin Concerto has a cadenza movement created for David Oistrakh, the First Cello Concerto has a cadenza movement originally tailored to the lyrical and muscular efforts of Mstislav Rostropovich. Chang demonstrates a hefty arsenal of effects, from a soft diminuendo to a resounding thump of a pizzicato. Her acceleration of the tempo, using the opening martial motif, explodes into the G Minor quirky dance of the finale.  Boisterous and earthy, the movement features rough tympanic sections and descending woodwinds, flute and horn, which might be maenads. The D-S-C-H monogram assumes all kinds of weird shapes, akin to Berlioz’ idee fixe, and the entire onrushing gallop comes to a dramatic conclusion.

A softer impetus opens the 1934 D Minor Sonata, at least its demure, chaste persona until it sheds its polite skin to frolic, inviting the circus in. When the cello does sing, the emotion is quite sincere. The martial forces intrude on the spiritual privacy, and the piano part argues for the diversity of Pappano’s musicianship. The Scherzo in A Minor whirls and sways on its glissandi legs as if it had imbibed too much vodka. Kudos to balance engineer Jonathan Allen in all this. Chang gives us plenty of Russian melancholy in the Largo, only to burst forth in gavotte-like last movement, with its blistering sequences of anguished runs for both instruments. Very stylish and agile playing throughout, certainly indicative of a pair of major talents.

–Gary Lemco

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