SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 6 – Russian National Orchestra/ Vladimir Jurowski, conductor. – Pentatone

by | Sep 8, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 6 – Russian National Orchestra/ Vladimir Jurowski, conductor – Pentatone  Multichannel SACD PTC 5186, 66:57 *****:

Shostakovich’s First Symphony was written as a graduation exercise for his composition course at the Leningrad Conservatory in December 1925 when the composer was 19 years old. It’s one of the best first symphonies ever written. Witty, tuneful and brilliant, it’s also a great work to test your system’s sonic chops. Instrumental solos abound from the deepest lows to the sharpest highs; the sonic soundstage is wide and deep; and the emotional landscape varies from the dramatic and exciting to the beautiful and sad.  The music is largely tonal; the composer’s structures are based on traditional classical forms.  His mastery of counterpoint reminds us of Beethoven and by the use of spare instrumentation in more intimate moments recalls Bach. Orchestral color is achieved through setting solo woodwinds or brass against massed strings.  He uses long melodic lines, clear textures and chromatic dissonance in his instrumentation. 

From the very beginning, it’s clear that this is a great sounding SACD. The instrumental soundstage is wide and deep, the ambient air and bloom around the instruments give results in superb transparency. The orchestral climaxes are exciting and clear. At 2:04 of the first movement, notice the clarity of the contrasting thematic materials. The snare drums that end the second movement are distant but audible. Fortunately, Jurowski’s interpretation is distinctive and very Russian. He doesn’t hurry through the first movement but infuses it with a gravitas that doesn’t eschew excitement. The lugubrious and solemn lento, the heart and soul of the work, is contrasted with a beautiful heartbreaking violin solo that is echoed by a muted trumpet.  The finale builds slowly to a thrilling climax.

The Sixth Symphony, written in 1939, consists of only three movements, a long slow first movement, a classic Shostakovich manically-driven scherzo and a bizarre finale. Much has been written about what’s underneath the surface of Shostakovich’s music, especially after his chastisement in 1936 by Stalin (through Pravda) caused by his dissonant and brutal opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Is the first movement a reflection of the war horrors that Russians were experiencing in 1939 or a statement of the emotional devastation Shostakovich was experiencing? Is the finale really happy or rollickingly sardonic? Forget about the politics and enjoy an inventive work by a great composer. The Russian National Orchestra plays brilliantly throughout this wonderful disc. Don’t miss it!

— Robert Moon
 

Related Reviews
La Clave – Acoustic Sounds

La Clave – Acoustic Sounds

Verve/Universal Music Group releases a re-mastered vinyl of an obscure, but highly entertaining 70’s album. 

Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
La Clave – Acoustic Sounds

La Clave – Acoustic Sounds

Verve/Universal Music Group releases a re-mastered vinyl of an obscure, but highly entertaining 70’s album.