Shostakovich

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam (Jansons) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.7 in C, Op. 60 “Leningrad”’  An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam (Jansons) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.7 in C, Op. 60 “Leningrad”’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

This has proven to be a watershed year for Shostakovich, the centenary of his birth serving as gateway into the pantheon of great composers (at least for most listeners, pace Pierre Boulez). The flood of releases honoring Shostakovich this year is not a great surprise, but what is a great surprise is the number of truly great recordings we’ve seen. This new release from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s in-house label, RCO Live, lands in very distinguished territory, and if it doesn’t ultimately end up in the final handful of greatest recordings from the centenary year, it is perhaps only because of the piece itself, which isn’t in the highest echelon of this composer’s output. Shostakovich’s Seventh initially received an enormous amount of publicity, both due to the composer’s fame (via a magazine article in the U.S. which featured pictures of Shostakovich in his firefighter’s helmet, as he helped preserve Leningrad during the Nazi siege), and to the remarkable premiere, held in the besieged city and broadcast over the walls to the lurking Germans. The score was then smuggled through enemy lines and out of Russia on microfilm, leading to some very high-profile performances in the west by the likes of Toscanini, Stokowski, and Rodzinski. read more…

Shostakovich from WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln and Avie Records

WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln and musical director Semyon Bychkov feature on the latest SACD from Avie Records. Since becoming Music Director of the WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln in 1998, Semyon Bychkov has enjoyed an enormously fruitful relationship with the celebrated ensemble, especially evident in his acclaimed series of recordings for Avie. read more…

London Symphony Orchestra (Rostropovich) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.8 in C minor, Op. 65’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Recordings like this don’t come along very often. Buy it. Here’s why.

First of all, Shostakovich was a major composer of the twentieth century, and his ‘Symphony No. 8’ is arguably his greatest work. read more…

Beethoven Orchestra Bonn (Kofman) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.5, Symphony No.9’  A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Beethoven Orchestra Bonn (Kofman) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.5, Symphony No.9’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Secret-coded protest of a heroic artist or the apology of a scared man toeing the party line? Debate has raged for years about Shostakovich’s ‘Symphony No. 5’, and it isn’t likely to cease any time soon. The work was sent out into the world in 1937 not long after Shostakovich had been raked over the coals in an unsigned article in the leading Soviet Union newspaper ‘Pravda’. Such uncredited articles were normally assumed to have the authority of Communist dictator Josef Stalin behind them. It appears that Stalin had gone to a performance of Shostakovich’s bawdy and musically adventurous opera ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’, and found the subject matter appalling and the music rude. This was during the 1930’s, when the artistic intelligentsia in Russia were quickly realizing that people who were disliked by “Uncle Joe” Stalin had a way of disappearing, never to be heard from again. Shostakovich knew what danger he was in, and he wisely withdrew his wide-ranging, dark, and at times hallucinogenic ‘Symphony No. 4’ which was then in rehearsal for its premiere by conductor Fritz Stiedry (Side note to other classical record nerds: Anyone else out there have fond memories of a rough-and-ready LP of Haydn’s ‘Symphony No. 102’ by Stiedry from the early 1950’s on Music Appreciation Records?). His next major work to be issued was the ‘Symphony No. 5’, which was published along with the obnoxious tag, “A Soviet artist’s reply to justified criticism,” although it seems this groveling bit was suggested by a reporter or the publisher and did not originate with the composer. Shostakovich wisely just nodded his head and smiled. The piece seemed to be what a good, proper Soviet composer should write: Striving first movement, folk-influenced second movement, lyrical third movement, and rambunctious finale that ultimately triumphs. read more…

Kirov and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras (Gergiev) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.7 ‘Leningrad’’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

The nature of sound being what it is, combining two orchestras together does not make the music twice as loud, but what it does do is give an amazing depth and richness to the music. This recent Philips release brings us a live recording of Valery Gergiev conducting the two orchestras he is most associated with: The Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. read more…

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