Shostakovich’s atmospheric Eleventh Symphony recounts the events surrounding the First Russian Revolution of 1905, while reflecting on the brutality of the later Soviet regime. Its cinematic depiction of winter cold and military might is utterly compelling, and never more so than under the baton of the composer’s friend Mstislav Rostropovich.
Shostakovich wrote his Eighth Symphony (from a total of fifteen) in the summer of 1943, across a period of around ten weeks. It was given its first performance on 4 November that year by the USSR Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky, to whom the work is dedicated. Expectations were high, for Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, associated with the siege of Leningrad, had been adopted both in Russia and the West as a symbol of resistance to the Nazis. It was hoped that the Eighth would follow in its patriotic footsteps – earlier that year the German Sixth army had been annihilated at Stalingrad, the siege of Leningrad has been lifted, and the Nazis were in retreat.
Both these couplings are extremely fine, but taken together they add up to even more than the sum of their parts. The point of coupling Shostakovich’s first and last string quartets is obvious, and the contrast between what the composer himself called his “Springtime Quartet” and the unprecedented sequence of six slow movements written months before his death could not be more poignant.
I've been listening to Brandenburgs non-stop for the past three weeks, for some reason. I love the Ristenpart recording, and I like the Britten version even better in some ways. This Baumgartner recording has a certain elegance. The pace is a tad slower and the ambience a bit thicker. The second movement of the first Brandenburg hits that emotional place a bit better than in the Britten version. I would be hard pressed to say which I prefer overall, but on first listening I sure loved this recording.
The musical talents of Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet, who became Jacquet de La Guerre at her marriage in 1684 to the organist Marin de la Guerre, attracted the patronage of Louis XIVs court while she was still little more than a child. She was an admired singer, virtuoso player of the harpsichord and composer of at least one opera (Cphale et Procris, 1694), a number of cantatas both secular and sacred, trio sonatas and the harpsichord works recorded here.