Prokofiev's Second Concerto is all about exile. The first movement's second subject, as played by Vengerov, is music conceived a long way from home but mindful of returning. The reach and intensity of his sound, the truthfulness of his tuning, so true in those ecstatic high positions that it almost hurts, is something you feel as well as hear. The second movement - beginning on pointes, a melody which craves dance, the expressiveness of long, graceful limbs (Romeo and Juliet is its closest relative) - is the homecoming, and to hear Vengerov move from singing the melody to richly embellishing it, is to experience a kind of in-the-moment magic that no amount of technical skill can prepare for.
The flip-side is Shostakovich at his most austere. This Second Concerto is rarely played: it's too elusive, to damn uncomfortable. Barely suppressed anger keeps hacking its way to the surface, fragments of Jewish folk melody nag relentlessly, obsessively, going nowhere. There's a nomadic slow movement. There's a jovial finale, brittle with irony. Vengerov seems to know what that's about already. He witholds nothing. Lots of bow pressure, heavy vibrato (or none at all) - bitter home truths don't come much more hard- hitting. And all the while it's like Mstislav Rostropovich is at his elbow passing on good vibrations from the respective composers. He had a hot line to them both, after all. Still does.
The LSO - big-boned and assertive, even ugly, in the Shostakovich - turn star-crossed lovers for the Prokofiev. The technical values are superb. You probably already have their award-winning disc of the Prokofiev and Shostakovich First Concertos. If not, why not? Here's your second reason for making amends.Reuse content