The Strad Issue: July 2018  
Description: Cellist’s own opera-themed work meets Shostakovich  
Musicians: Mats Lidström (cello), Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy  
Works: LIDSTRÖM Rigoletto Fantasy. SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto no.1  
Catalogue Number: BIS 2289 (SACD)

Mats Lidström combines effortless virtuosity with a strong creative flair. His own Rigoletto Fantasy is highly entertaining, with the well-loved favourite arias neatly bound together in a convincing manner, skilled orchestration that allows for maximum clarity of texture and detail and, last but not least, some taxing orchestral solos for the first violin, cello and flute. Clearly the Oxford Philharmonic has a full house of virtuosos in its ranks, because the level of orchestral partnership is really impressive.

Equally, Vladimir Ashkenazy provides a compelling dramatic narrative, particularly in the Shostakovich. Here the links between sections are brilliantly conceived. Although the dynamic markings in the score are relatively few, this warmly recorded performance observes them to the letter and makes the effect exceptionally vivid. Hence Lidström opens the work with a really hushed piano, which lends a greater vulnerability to the ensuing motoric invention.

It also allows for the temperature to gradually increase in intensity to maximum impact. Voice leading in the bass-line of the orchestra is strongly defined in the second-movement moderato underpinning the folk-hued theme, the return of which Lidström so evocatively portrays as a ghostly version with its false harmonics.

The cadenza is masterfully choreographed before the finale commands the stage. Cascading scalic flurries bring proceedings to a fever-

pitch conclusion. Both dramatic and tender, Lidström’s performance has a depth that makes you listen afresh to this familiar concerto.