First published in the Guardian on 30 June, 2016
Shostakovich/Glazunov: Violin Concertos
Benedetti/Bournemouth SO/Karabits (Decca)
This might just be Nicola Benedetti’s best recording yet. Two very different 20th century violin concertos show her at her most generously expressive and succinct, her most agile and commanding. Shostakovich wrote his seething First Concerto in the late 1940s but kept it mainly suppressed until after Stalin’s death in the 1950s; Benedetti unfurls the painful opening melody with a wan, broken, beautiful sound, then when it comes to the Passacaglia she really soars. And what makes it so worth hearing her interpretation of the Glazunov — an altogether lighter, sweeter business — is that she retains some of that urgency and makes a convincing case for the dark corners as well as the big-hearted tunes. Another major plus is the playing of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Kirill Karabits, a sound that broods and simmers in the Shostakovich and adds lustrous depth to the Glazunov.