Shostakovich: Cello Concerto no. 1 E flat major opus 107
There are now two CD versions of the Shostakovich First Concerto and choice will doubtless depend on the coupling you prefer: Raphael Wallfisch has the benefit of the Barber Concerto. Both performances of the Shostakovich are very fine though the Philadelphia Orchestra play with effortless virtuosity and naturally produce a bigger sound than does the ECO. As I said in my original review, Yo-Yo Ma brings an ardent musical imagination to this score, as indeed he does to everything he touches, and if I originally spoke of the orchestral playing being of a slightly lower voltage than it was in the famous pioneering LP account Ormandy made for CBS with Rostropovich in 1960, it is still pretty electrifying. And what excellent sound quality the CBS engineers have produced for this new recording, bright, clean and forward: there is a great clarity and presence in the CD format. The balance is very well judged with very articulate wind detail.
On further hearing I have revised my opinion of the Kabalevsky concerto; it has a genuine charm and warmth even if it lacks the depth of the Miaskovsky and the musical substance of the Prokofiev.
Yo-Yo Ma plays with an intensity and eloquence that is completely persuasive and the orchestral accompaniment under Ormandy is superb. Again, the CBS recording is fresh and vivid; the balance favours the soloist, but not unreasonably. I have enjoyed listening to this on CD and look forward to doing so again.
Gramophone, May 1985