Vladimir Ashkenazy and Mats Lidström began their collaboration in London in the 1980s, during Ashkenazy’s tenure at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra where Lidström was principal cellist. They have since appeared together in concert as well as on disc, including a recording of concertos by Kabalevsky and Khachaturian on BIS. They are here reunited, in front of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, in a performance of what has become a true modern classic: Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. The concerto was composed in 1959, during the so-called Khruschev Thaw, but even though Soviet censorship and repression had relaxed somewhat following the death of Stalin, the approval from the mighty Composer’s Union was still needed before any public performances could take place. When the concerto was performed before the Union’s committee, Vladimir Ashkenazy – then in his early twenties – was present and has recounted how nervous and uncomfortable Shostakovich appeared while observing the reactions of the committee.
The disc opens with Mats Lidström’s own Rigoletto Fantasy, based on Verdi’s opera. Inspired by virtuosic violin pieces such Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, and with professional experience from the orchestra pit of the Royal Swedish Opera, Lidström has selected a string of highlights from Rigoletto, including of course the Duke’s La donna è mobile and Gilda’s Caro nome, joining them together in a virtuosic, dramatic and moving narrative.