Great performances of this massive symphony aren’t exactly thick on the field, but my goodness, this is one of them. Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic play with 100 percent commitment in every single bar. The first movement opens broadly, the intensity already palpable. Taking full advantage of excellent sound and a wide dynamic range (crank up the volume for this one), the central march and battle will have you sweating in your seat. The unrelentingly sustained passion that Petrenko brings to this long section triumphantly vindicates Shostakovich’s controversial vision, and at the same time makes short work of a 28-minute overall timing.
Melodiya presents an album of chamber and symphonic music by Moisey (Mieczysław) Weinberg, a remarkable composer and one of the best representatives of the ‘Shostakovich school’.Regretfully, for the general public, he stayed in the shadow of his great teacher (although he formally wasn’t his pupil; this is rather a matter of spiritual affinity, a common stylistic and ethical orientation felt by both composers). Weinberg is mostly known as an author of music to such outstanding Soviet motion pictures as The Cranes Are Flying, Don Quixote and The Last Inch.
Few new pieces of music in the 20th century have received the kind of celebrity accorded the Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 when it arrived in America. At a time when Russia was seen in a somewhat friendly light by the allied nations, this supposed depiction of the siege of Leningrad was seized upon by the press as a vital cog in the war effort. The composer, clad in military fireman's garb, graced the cover of Time magazine, and Toscanini and Stokowski fought tooth and nail to get the premiere American performance. (Toscanini got his hands on the manuscript first, and Stokowski gave the second performance a few days later.) Here is a Soviet studio recording from the 1950s by Evgeny Mravinsky, the conductor most closely associated with Shostakovich during his lifetime. It is a strong performance with plenty of impact and the Leningrad Philharmonic in good form, and while live Mravinsky versions of several of the symphonies exist in abundance, there are none of the Seventh, making this disc especially valuable.
"This was a performance, played with the Concertgebouw's phenomenal spectrum of coloring, phrasing & dynamic subtlety that asserted the symphony's organic structural credentials & spoke of deep-seated, human feelings throughout its ample 80-minute span. It was wonderful to have past reservations about the symphony swept aside with such authority. " ~The Telegraph
Recorded in 2001 (Mahler) and 2004 (Shostakovich), this 2007 ECM release provides a wonderful insight into Gidon Kremer's perspective on two composers who are clearly close to his heart. The performances are both fascinating, and the Kremerata Baltica give their not-inconsiderable all in both works.
It may be that Mariss Jansons is incapable of releasing a new recording of music that he hasn't done before, but this disc at least has the distinction of being the orchestra's first recording of the "Leningrad" Symphony, and that may be enough for some listeners. Haitink's Decca recording, you may recall, was made with the LPO before the series switched its base of operations to Amsterdam. Certainly this has to be the most purely beautiful version of the piece on disc. The playing is richly upholstered, with stunning contributions from the solo flute and bassoon in the first and third movements. Even the most overwhelming climaxes ride on a rich carpet of string sonority. D. H.
"It is my best work, with a primarily cheerful character". This was Gustav Mahler's assessment of his Symphony No. 7, which was also highly regarded by Arnold Schoenberg, who said, "I had an impression of absolute peace based on artistic harmony. Something able to set me in motion without recklessly unsettling my center of gravity." Riccardo Chailly, in his internationally acclaimed interpretations of Mahler's symphonies - which he and the Gewandhaus Orchestra are bringing together in a complete cycle - focuses on the musical qualities of the works, eschewing false pathos and sentimentality while giving up none of the music's dramatic intensity. "Mahler's Seventh Symphony, in which the composer pulled out all expressive stops and revealed himself to be an innovative modernist, has seldom been as persuasive and direct as in Chailly's interpretation", said the Frankfurter Neue Presse.