Notes and Editorial Reviews
Berlin Classics has reissued this performance countless times, and it’s not surprising. It remains a reference version of the Fifth Symphony, and its virtues have not dimmed with the years. It also represents one of conductor Kurt Sanderling’s finest outings on disc.
Roughly speaking, Shostakovich 5th performances fall into two broad categories: the unambiguously tragic, with slow codas to the finale, and the more ambiguously triumphant, with quicker tempos at the end. The best of the former include this recording, Rostropovich, and Maxim Shostakovich (Melodiya). while excellent versions of the latter include Previn (RCA) and Bernstein, among others. This isn’t to say that the entire
expressive significance of the work hangs on the coda of the finale–not at all–but that crucial moment does provide a useful point of reference and comparison.
So if you are looking for the version that wrings every drop of existential anguish from the piece, then Sanderling is your guy. It’s not just that the coda of the finale is the most shattering on disc, with those repeated A’s hammered out in the violins and piano like a stabbing pain (sound clip), there’s also an amazingly intense, gripping, and wonderfully sustained Largo, with especially beautiful string playing, not to mention a first movement that opens like the crack of doom and never lets up. Even the more easeful second subject carries with it a benumbed sense of dread. Only the scherzo offers a brief hint of gawky humor. The Berlin Symphony Orchestra gives Sanderling 100% commitment, and the East German engineering, typically, is very impressive.
There are too many recordings of this wonderful piece to call any single version “definitive,” but this one belongs in the collection of anyone who cares about Shostakovich, and who relishes the most emotionally complete listening experience possible.
– ClassicsToday (David Hurwitz) Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in D minor, Op. 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1937; USSR
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