The Classical Review
, July 2011
Neither Martha Argerich nor Mischa Maisky is synonymous with new commissions, making their premiere of Rodion Shchedrin’s Romantic Offering the more notable.
Eighty next year, Shchedrin is the doyen of contemporary Russian composers, his sizable output over six decades covering all the main genres and taking in the full gamut of post-war stylisms.
With few if any precedents, this double concerto is among his most substantial recent works—proceeding from a moderately paced opening movement of evident restraint, via a tensile and energetic scherzo, to a finale that fuses the main motifs into a sustained span of cumulative emotion. Resourcefully conceived in the composer’s current post-Romantic vein, it is idiomatically written for soloists who seize upon its meaningful virtuosity with alacrity in this live recording of its first performance in the Concert Hall of KKL Luzern, Switzerland in February 2011.
César Franck’s Cello Sonata (no less idiomatic than its violin original) finds the long-established duo on more familiar territory: Maisky’s habitual rubato slightly distends the opening movement’s expressive reticence, but both the scherzo and improvisatory ‘Recitativo-Fantasia’ are as imaginative as they are impulsive, while the finale lacks nothing in fervency.
Having opened the concert with a rather pedestrian account of Dvořák’s Scherzo capriccioso, Neeme Järvi and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra come more fully into their own with Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony. Eschewing the more subversive aspects of this deceptively equable piece, it is at its best in the second movement’s limpid poignancy and the fourth movement’s stoic pathos (the latter featuring some eloquent solo playing from the orchestra’s principal bassoonist, Beat Blättler).
Released within four months of its recording, the concert is directed with unobtrusive excellence by Michael Bayer, and presented to the high standard already established by Accentus Music (launched as recently as November 2010.) It is accompanied by a pertinent ‘Behind the Scenes’ bonus, directed by Maria Stodtmeier, in which Argerich and Maisky put Shchedrin’s new concerto through its paces before a clearly appreciative composer.
If the artists and the programme appeals, then an enjoyable evening’s music making is assured.