Sergey Khachatryan / Kurt Masur / Orchestre National de France SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concertos

It's probably unfair to compare Sergey Khachatryan's 2006 recording of Shostakovich's violin concertos accompanied by Kurt Masur leading the Orchestre National de France with David Oistrakh's classic recordings of the works: the 1956 Mitropoulos/New York Philharmonic First and the 1967 Kondrashin/ Moscow Philharmonic Second. Not only was Oistrakh the dedicatee for both works, he was far and away the greatest of Soviet violinists, and his virile, soulful, impassioned, and supremely virtuosic interpretations have an authenticity and immediacy that no subsequent violinist has yet touched. But although Khachatryan, like every other violinist who's ever played the works, can't really compare with Oistrakh, how does he compare with the other mere mortals who've taken on the works? In a word: okay -- not great, certainly, but okay. It's not his technique -- as his First Concerto cadenza amply demonstrates, the young Armenian is surely in the same league as the best of his contemporaries in sheer bravura virtuosity -- and it's not entirely his interpretations -- he seems to grasp the First's heart of darkness and expresses it with sympathy and compassion. It's that Khachatryan's interpretation of the Second has nowhere near the same depth of understanding as his First. Admittedly, the Second is a much more enigmatic work than the First, but Khachatryan seems unable to fathom its tone and the result is a performance that stands back too far from the piece to make a persuasive case for it. Masur's proficient but not especially insightful conducting and the Orchestre National de France's professional but inspired playing aren't much help to Khachatryan. In the end, they're are performances worth hearing from a violinist worth listening to -- but they're no match for Oistrakh's. Naïve's sound, while close and clean, lacks warmth and presence.
(James Leonard)


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