The "Under Stalin's Shadow" subtitle of this release may be confusing inasmuch as the opening Passacaglia from the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District dates from before the period when Stalin made Shostakovich's life a living hell, and the main attraction, the Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93, was finished ten months after Stalin's death. Actually the album is the first in a set of three; the others will cover the symphonies No. 5 through No. 9, all written during the period of Stalinist cultural control. But even here the theme is relevant: the pieces are linked by a dark mood that carries overtones (of a feminist sort in the case of the opera) of repression. And the Symphony No. 10 is decidedly some kind of turning point, with repeated (and finally triumphant) assertions of the D-S-C-H motif (D, E flat, C, B natural in the German system) that would appear frequently in the composer's later work.
Shostakovich's Symphony No.5 was given its premiere in 1937. It was outwardly in compliance with the ruling party, but the public heard a message of suffering in Shostakovich's masterpiece and it was an unprecedented triumph. Symphony No.12 "The Year 1917" was dedicated to Vladimir Lenin. Both works were premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yevgeny Mravinsky. The performances featured here were recorded in December 1965.
Rafael Kubelik's highly chromatic, poetic Mahler recordings have been staples in Deutsche Grammophon's catalogue since their inception. Tempos overall tend to be quicker than the norm, yet never at the expense of glossing over the composers renowned wealth of inner details. Many Mahler aficionados still regard Kubelik's readings here of the Symphonies No. 1 and No. 7 as reference recordings. Distinguished soloists include Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Edith Mathis, Norma Proctor, Franz Crass, and Julia Hamari. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as the various outstanding choirs employed throughout the cycle couldn't be more in sync with Kubelik's inspired visionary interpretations.
A brilliant specialist in the keyboard works of Johann Sebastian Bach, which she has recorded to great critical acclaim, Angela Hewitt proves herself equally attuned to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in this first installment of the complete piano concertos. While beginning with the Piano Concertos No. 6, No. 8, and No. 9 might be an unusual opening gambit, jumping ahead of the earliest and least compelling concertos, they are still youthful works and more than competent examples of Mozart's budding mastery. Indeed, the Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, "Jenamy" ("Jeunehomme"), is his "coming of age" work, though it shows only the beginnings of Mozart's mature concertante style and promises much greater things to come. Hewitt performs with Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, demonstrating her polished skills and exquisite taste in refined and robust strokes with full-sounding accompaniment. Even though she plays a modern piano and the group isn't a period ensemble, the playing is certainly informed by historical practice and is a delightful mixture of Classical balance, modern instrumental colors, and consummate musicianship. Hyperion's reproduction is first-class, so the sound is clean, fresh, and vibrant, with crisp details and credible presence. (Blair Sanderson)
Milhaud's Symphony No. 5 was written on commission from Italian Radio (RAI), and was first performed by the RAI Orchestra of Turin under the composer's direction.The two previous symphonies had expressed public sentiments. (They were respectively, a symphony to celebrate the victory of World War II and to commemorate the French Revolution of 1848.) The mood of this symphony, though, is cool and objective Alexander Fried of the San Francisco Examiner noted its "refreshing, almost sardonic crackle." The slow movement is the most memorable part of the symphony. For the most part, the symphony is composed on short motives rather than on broad melodies. Symphony No. 6 was written at ………
It’s a tribute to Vladimir Jurowski’s achievement here that there’s less difference in quality between the First and Sixth symphonies than often is the case. But if you heard his “Manfred” Symphony, then you already know that he’s one of the great Tchaikovsky conductors working today, and he has the LPO playing with a commitment and intensity that the orchestra has often lacked under its previous music directors… If you love Tchaikovsky, then you’ll love this release. It’s hot–really hot. - David Hurwitz; www.classicstoday.com