Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 & Violin Sonata – Mayuko Katsumura with LSO/Enrico Marconi and Nigel Hutchison [Green Room Productions]

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Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.77
Sonata in G for Violin and Piano, Op.134

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Mayuko Katsumura (violin)

London Symphony Orchestra
Enrico Marconi

Nigel Hutchison (piano)

Concerto recorded 10 & 11 March 2012 in Abbey Road Studio 1, London; Sonata recorded 21 & 22 June 2013 in Henry Wood Hall, London

Reviewed by: Andrew Achenbach

Reviewed: February 2014
Duration: 70 minutes

With this substantial Shostakovich pairing Mayuko Katsumura enters a hotly competitive field and – I’m delighted to be able to report – more than holds her own! Born in Tokyo, Katsumura was a pupil of Professor Yasuro Sumi and graduated from the Music High School of that city’s National University of Fine Arts and Music. After winning first prize in the Japan Soloist Contest in 1995, she moved to London two years later to study with the great Yfrah Neaman (1923-2003) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The present recording of Shostakovich’s imposing First Violin Concerto was set down at Abbey Road Studio 1 in March 2012, around a month before a performance of the same work that this soloist and conductor gave with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Cadogan Hall and which drew golden opinions from some quarters. It’s easy to understand why: not only does Katsumura possess a conspicuously secure technique and as well as a beguilingly rich and subtly variegated tonal palette, her playing has a disarming naturalness, personable warmth and spontaneity of feeling to commend it – one always senses she is entirely at the service of Shostakovich’s powerfully brooding vision, and there’s never any suggestion of slick display for its own sake. The London Symphony Orchestra under Enrico Marconi play their full part in a performance which has a generosity of spirit, communicative spark and purposefulness that certainly held this listener from first measure to last.

In the magnificent Violin Sonata from 1968 (again conceived for the incomparable David Oistrakh) Katsumura is joined by Nigel Hutchison, a pupil of Craig Sheppard and Earl Wild – and, on this evidence, another artist of whom we should hear more. Southwark’s Henry Wood Hall is the venue for a finely disciplined, enviably concentrated and deeply thoughtful reading, in which Katsumura and Hutchison form a genuine, breathing partnership. They prove especially penetrating exponents of the towering finale’s grippingly intense narrative, though perhaps the central scherzo is lacking just a fraction in caustic bite and sheer flair (try and hear Midori with Özgür Aydin on a recent absorbing Onyx Classics issue, coupled with Sonatas by Bloch and Janáček).

I need hardly add that the superbly realistic sound and truthful balance fully meet the exalted expectations of any production masterminded by Tony Faulkner, who has long been one of the most accomplished sound engineers of this (or, indeed, any other!) era. Colin Anderson pens a splendidly wise, concise and informative booklet-note. In short, this is a very impressive release.

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