SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad” – Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons – RCO Live: SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad” – Orchestra Sinfonia di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/ Oleg Caetani – Arts:

by | Nov 18, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad” – Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons – RCO Live Multichannel SACD 06002, 74:37 *****:
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad” – Orchestra Sinfonia di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/ Oleg Caetani – Arts Multichannel SACD 47667-8, 73:35 ****:

The Shostakovich symphonies are getting about as much attention in SACD releases as the Mahler symphonies.  That stands to reason considering many consider the two closely allied, and both composers’ orchestral language is so rich and with such a wide range of emotions that hi-res surround sound is more than welcome to sort out the complexities.

The two “war symphonies” of Shostakovich – the 5th and 7th – don’t have as high a standing with critics as his other symphonies due to their forays into a sort of propagandistic patriotism.  That doesn’t stop me from preferring them to the others which I find often lugubrious. The composer was persecuted by Stalin and the Soviet authorities most of his life, and the 7th was composed under horrifying conditions during the first year of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  One million Russians died during the siege of Leningrad.  The symphony is about survival in the face of terrible odds. Only in the finale is there hope given of a possible victory of light over the darkness.

These two SACD 7ths arrived for review at the same time. Both were recorded during live performances and both used the very highest quality five-channel recording equipment. The Concertgebouw boasts a clear edge in the venue department; it’s hard to beat the world famous Concertgebouw acoustic environment, and while both orchestras are excellent, Jansons’ players are more precise and demonstrate a wider emotional range.  Passages needing a more urgent feeling are strongly played while the Milan forces seem to be holding back a bit.  The RCO is recorded with a closer perspective, which adds to the impact of their performance. The Finale of the RCO version is nothing short of breathtaking.  Highly recommended!

 – John Sunier

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