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Ray Chen's Shostakovich concerto with SSO was thrilling and thoughtful / The Australian

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The music of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich is arguably more politically loaded than that of any other composer. Some even question whether we can hear his music only as music. Of the three works in this all-Shostakovich concert, it is the first violin concerto (1947) that can be divorced from politics most easily.

When I last heard Australian violinist Ray Chen with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2011 playing Brahms's violin concerto, his performance seemed slightly inhibited. At the time I wrote that his artistry had "yet to flower into full bloom". It sure has now. Chen's spectacular performance of Shostakovich's concerto was thrillingly virtuosic yet also nuanced and thoughtful.

Ray Chen's spectacular performance of Shostakovich's concerto was thrillingly virtuosic yet also nuanced and thoughtful. In the first and third movements his long-breathed phrasing, well-sustained sotto voce passages and subtle dynamic control realised their deeply felt lyricism. By contrast, his aggres­sive staccato attack, rhythmic acuity and brilliantly executed bravura passagework captured the second movement's sardonic character and fourth movement's energy. He maintained a focused tone, clear articulation and piercing upper register clarity while varying his timbre to the needs of the moment.  PHOTO: Rebecca Michael

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