Simone Lamsma and her very personal Shostakovich violin concerto Mar 10 by Bert van der Wolf in Producer's Notes, Recording Reports

From the moment I met Simone Lamsma, and started working on the recording sessions with James Gaffigan and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, I was struck by Simone’s intense, yet joyful dedication towards this particular piece. A form of relaxed concentration both in playing and working on the details. It was obvious that it has been one of her favorite violin concertos to play, but most of all, to again and again experience and re-live the intense real life story that the composer is trying to communicate through this music.

The element of grieve and agony about personal circumstances, the lack of freedom in his society and the pressure he must have felt during the days he was working on his most profound music are gripping. Simone played this piece a lot with many different orchestra’s and conductors, but I felt she was very at ease with James Gaffigan and the way he was steering the orchestra under, above and next to her solo part. A wonderful synergy was created whereby there was room for all personal interpretations of the complex score and instrumentation.

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Seeing and hearing two, still rather young musicians, trying to reach for the core of this piece and searching for all the dark and sinister places which the score has to offer was fascinating. The meticulous workflow with the orchestra during the recordings, that I have come to enjoy with James Gaffigan over the years in numerous sessions, combined with a tremendously perfectionistic, yet emotional driven soloist, gave me the inspiration and motivation to also get to the optimum experience of this wonderful statement in the musical arts. Working on it in my studio afterwards, immersed by the intense sound-scape with it peaks and valleys, was mesmerizing, but at times also frightening. The intensity of the musical message coming across was dripping from the bits that are as if frozen on the tape…

The score of Shostakovich violin concerto is far from trivial and for making a recording of it, many aspects have to be considered and researched, but mostly decided on the fly. It can be interpreted in many ways, both musically as in terms of sound-scape. There are very distinctive moments of explosion, but also gripping implosions where orchestral settings and the relation to the soloist are almost in conflict or at least paradoxical. Speed is required in wide and open orchestral settings, which normally do not easily allow for coherence, like fragments from an explosion in space floating around through the universe, but the sounding effects are exactly what, i my personal opinion, determines the chaos and desperation which radiates from this music. It comes from the inside out, but a moment later from the outside in… The very human feeling of “loosing it”, the feeling of giving up at times, but mostly the feeling to resist what is wrong and oppose to what is forced upon you. This musical master piece is as human as it can be in my opinion and resonates the ultimate survival under the most difficult circumstances. This probably is what makes that musicians like Simone Lamsma, James Gaffigan and his RFO play this piece with such pleasure wonder and dedication. It reflects on everybody’s personal life, no matter how privileged one is, there are always moments of despair, doubt, grieve but with hope and joy as well…And music is the best art to portray these feelings!

Bert van der Wolf

Bert van der Wolf is a recording engineer/producer based in The Netherlands and has run his own audio recording facility since 1996. He worked for the Dutch recording companies Channel Classics from 1989 to 1996 and Kompas CD Multimedia from 1996 to 2000, making several hundred recordings for numerous international record labels. He also works as a consultant and “evangelist” for many recording studios and professional audio equipment manufacturers.

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