A terrific orchestral version of some of Shostakovich’s jazziest works, on remastered vinyl!

SHOSTAKOVICH: “The Jazz Album” – Ronald Brautigam, p./ Peter Masseurs, trumpet/ Royal Concertgebouw Orch./ Riccardo Chailly (TrackList follows) – Decca vinyl 483 0960 (12/23/16):

Shostakovich had a constantly changing relationship with jazz during his composing years in the Soviet Union. His famous “Tahiti Trot,” (which is really an arrangement for “Tea for Two,” came about as a challenge by conductor Nicolai Malko to orchestrate Youman’s “Tea for Two” in the space of an hour. Shostakovich did it in 40 minutes, and the resultant work has been a big hit in Russia.

In his student years, Shostakovich visited jazz musicians and performances with reported his delight at jazz bands, but later jazz was regarded with suspicion and hostility in certain quarters as a residue of bourgeois culture and decadence. In 1934, however, he participated in a jazz competition whose aim was to raise the level of Soviet jazz from “cafe” music to music with a professional status. He then wrote his three-movement Jazz Suite No. 1. 

During the early 1930s Shostakovich wished to get back to concert tours with himself at the piano and wrote this Piano Concerto No. 1 in high spirits. It is full of in-joke quotations, allusions to the cinema world in the second movement, and features a prominent solo trumpet part. It shows the high spirits of his youth.

This is great to have in an affectionate interpretation by the full orchestra and Chailly, and  the sonics are clean and plenty ambient. The liner notes by Elizabeth Wilson are also very interesting, and inside is a coupon which gets you a free digital download of the entire album (I don’t know at what sampling rate – evidently not hi-res). This was reviewed on CD by The Gramophone in 2010.

1. Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 1, Op. 38b by Dmitri Shostakovich Written: 1934; USSR
2. Concerto for Piano No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35 by Dmitri Shostakovich Written: 1933; USSR
3. Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2, Op. 50b by Dmitri Shostakovich Written: 1938; USSR
4. Tahiti Trot, Op. 16 “Tea for Two” by Dmitri Shostakovich Written: 1928; USSR

—John Sunier