SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 11 in g, Op. 103, “The Year 1905” – Toronto Symphony Orchestra/ Peter Oundjian – TSO Live TSO-0612, 64:17 ****:
This is the first of the new “TSO Live” recordings I have encountered. Peter Oundjian, conductor of the Toronto Symphony, is being heralded as a miracle-worker in many circles due to his reinvigoration of what had been a very down and out organization until he came along. Now, with innovative programs that are bringing in new audiences, and a newly-inspired orchestra to boot, the former Tokyo Quartet first violinist has them on the high road, including the establishment of the orchestra’s own recording label.
This is a new phenomenon that is taking place all over the world. “LSO Live”, one of the first and still one of the best labels set the pace years ago, and the San Francisco Symphony is doing the same thing. I do wish that the TSO, like the SFS, LSO, and even CSO would make their offerings in Super Audio. This seems a terrible waste to me, especially in the big orchestral works that the TSO has been recording recently, including this one of Shostakovich’s massive Eleventh Symphony. Out of the approximately 40 recordings available, a full eight are in the SACD format, and at least five of them are outstanding interpretations. So for audiophiles this issue is up against some fearful competition.
But I have to give Oundjian and the TSO their due; the strings are impassioned and fervent, the brass formidably masterful, and the winds cutting and colorful. Oundjian leads a very articulate and seasoned performance that really is about as good as any I have heard interpretation-wise, and even though the sound is standard CD fare the acoustics of the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto are captured to the full, with lots of depth and plenty of resonance.
So what was I saying about SACD? Oh yes, it is a shame, and the TSO should definitely consider taking the audiophile leap in order to provide the absolute finest audio quality available. They already have the performing forces in place, and this outstanding issue would truly leap into the realm of exalted recordings with exceptional surround sound. As is, you will have to make the decision; I can’t do it for you. (Hint…I’m keeping it.)
An excellent survey of a favorite Chopin genre…