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Shostakovich and Szymanowski


Shostakovich: Five Fragments, op.42 (1935)  

Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No.1, op.35 (1916)

Shostakovich: Symphony No.4 in C minor, op.43 (1935/1936)


Carolin Widmann – violin, LPO/Vladimir Jurowski


Royal Festival Hall, London, 16 January 2010


Szymanowski’s 1st Violin Concerto requires a fiddler of exceptional strength and interpretive insight for, in truth, this isn’t a Concerto in the true sense of the word, more a kind of symphonic poem for very large orchestra with solo violin. The poor violinist has a lot to contend with in performance. Carolin Widmann played as if she’d had it under her fingers all her life and she easily soared over the orchestra. Jurowski kept the band well under control.


It was a good idea to preface the 4th Symphony of Shostakovich with the Five Fragments, a brief study for the symphony with some similarities in material and gesture. The 4th is the prodigal son amongst Shostakovich’s symphonies, written during the period of success he enjoyed in the mid thirties with his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and before the famous Pravda article which denounced his modernism. It is a large scale, sprawling, edifice which is wholly tragic and resolutely desperate and nihilistic in outlook.


Without a firm hand at the helm the various, disparate, elements do not hang together but tonight Jurowski showed his deep understanding of this wild masterpiece and brought it together as one unified whole. The huge climaxes, and there are many, were well built and there was some delightfully gentle and delicate pianissimo playing as well. At the end there was a storm of applause and cheering and one realised exactly why one attended live concerts instead of sitting at home listening to recordings. An excellent show by one of London’s very best orchestras.


Bob Briggs