Mats Lidström is that rare thing, an original musician. The sheer mercurial energy which drives his performances can be both engaging and disturbing, but there is always a searching intelligence at work. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra lost much when its compelling, if unpredictable, lead cellist departed. These two concertos show him at his persuasive best, bringing lesser known works to life. Kabalevsky’s 1964 Concerto stretches and yawns with slow pizzicato before springing into urgent life. Sub-Shostakovich in its motifs and tonality, it is nevertheless well-constructed and uses the saxophone to great effect. In both Allegro movements Lidström achieves a lightning speed and attack and, though Raphael Wallfisch’s recording on Nimbus has a more solid beauty of tone, the Swede’s nervous anticipation makes up for the thinner sound of his Grancino cello. Khachaturian’s 1946 Concerto would make a wonderful soundtrack to a cinematic faux-Oriental extravaganza, with its twisting major and minor intervals, and almost sleazy chromaticism. Lidström really knows how to swing, and makes the most of the memorable melodies.
Dmitri Borisovich Kabelevsky (1904-1987) is long remembered mostly as an innovative pedagogue and the one who sought to upgrade the curriculum so as to enhance music education for the youth. And like Kodaly of Hungary, Kabalevsky was something of a musical, cultural ambassador. As a composer, he wrote many pieces for children (for examples, the First Cello Concerto, Third Piano Concerto, a Violin Concerto and a song cycle "School Years"). His operas in particular were well known in Soviet Russia while about a few of his orchestral works had some currency in the West, including the Comedians, overture to Colas Breugnon, and to a lesser extent, the Second Symphony.
The summer of 1948 was spent by the Shostakoviches in Komarovo, a recreational area in the suburbs of Leningrad. In the bookstore in the train station, where Shostakovich had dropped in to buy something to read on the trip, he saw a collection of poems entitled "Jewish Folk Songs". The composer's interest in Jewish art was long-standing. He was familiar with Jewish folklore through a friend of his youth, S.Gershov, a pupil of Marc Chagall. Some modal attributes of Jewish folk melodies appeared in the composer's various compositions to convey sorrow and suffering.