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Shostakovich: Symphonies / Barshai, West German Rso


Release Date: 06/29/2004 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 6324   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Sergei AlexashkinVladimir VaneevAlla Simoni
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony OrchestraCologne West German Radio ChorusMoscow Choral Academy
Number of Discs: 11 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 11 Hours 6 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews


Now re-released in a slim box, I really can’t add anything to the acclaim this set has received other than to quote my colleague Victor Carr’s original review. He wrote, back in 2002 (my how time flies!): “Rudolf Barshai's WDR Symphony Orchestra cycle (recorded 1994-2000 in Cologne) is one of the best all-around sets available, with idiomatic playing that approaches that of great Russian orchestras and masterful conducting by a man who knew and worked closely with the composer.” If you need more convincing, check out the following quick overview.

No. 1: Crystalline textures and tight phrasing characterize this performance, emphasizing the work's neo-classical style (less so its darkly
Read more emotional side). No. 2: The playing is fleet, propulsive, and colorful, which is exactly what this "steel age" music needs; and the Rundfunkchor sings with revolutionary fervor at the conclusion, clearly articulating the text. No. 3: Barshai shapes this rambling work into a somewhat coherent musical discourse, but even his sensitive conducting cannot redeem the bland and tasteless choral ending. No. 4: A smart, biting performance with highly characterful playing from the orchestra. The strings really "kick" in the first movement's whirlwind fugato. The recording's lack of low bass is the only drawback.

No. 5: Barshai's interpretation is stern yet elegant, and his emphasis on the work's classical proportions brilliantly points up the symphony's relationship to Beethoven (as well as Mahler). No. 6: A great performance; Barshai shapes the first movement beautifully, illuminating the the music's underlying passion; the Scherzo is the fastest ever, and it's perfectly played, as is the mercurial finale; great percussion throughout. No. 7 "Leningrad": A taut opening to what will be a smoothly flowing rendition that's high on feeling but a little short on bombast (which may be a plus for some listeners). No. 8: Profoundly moving, communicating the work's tragic time in history; Barshai draws some particularly hair-raising sounds from the WDR woodwinds. No. 9: Magnificent; Shostakovich's subversive, Haydnesque wit and underlying anxiety is made perfectly plain; wonderful brass playing. No. 10: A lithe, lean, and dramatic reading, with powerful climaxes; the Scherzo is less frantic than some, but no less ferocious. No. 11 "The Year 1905": Another triumph; Barshai redeems this symphony by reaching beyond the surface cinematography to find the tragic grandeur just beneath.

No. 12 "The Year 1917": Fast tempos give the music an unusual dramatic impetus that outshines the rather foursquare melodic material; clearly this piece works better when it's short and sweet. No. 13 "Babi Yar": A gripping, intense, take-no-prisoners performance; Barshai draws forth powerfully dark and rich low orchestral sonorities, creating palpable feelings of fear and anxiety while generating tremendous climaxes; bass Sergei Alekshaskin is the voice of authority, doom, and compassion, and he's supported by the Moscow Choral Academy's ferociously powerful singing; this performance alone is worth the price of the set. No. 14: A masterful interpretation from the man who premiered the work. The string playing is stunning, while Alla Simoni and Vladimir Vaneev realize the music's bitter irony, grim tragedy, and profound sadness in their passionate, at times neurotic performances. No. 15: Barshai's light touch emphasizes the music's droll qualities and flies directly in the face of ironic and angst-ridden portrayals by Neeme Järvi and Kurt Sanderling; the finale is spectacular.”

Dave Hurwitz here again for a final note: the package comes with no texts or translations, which is a bummer in the vocal works; but in the face of a set of this quality it’s hardly worth mentioning. Own it, love it.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [12/2011]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in F minor, Op. 10 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924-1925; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 29 Minutes 16 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 2 in B flat major, Op. 14 "To October" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Chorus,  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 18 Minutes 47 Secs. 
3.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 20 "First of May" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Chorus,  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 26 Minutes 43 Secs. 
4.
Symphony no 4 in C minor, Op. 43 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935-1936; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 62 Minutes 7 Secs. 
5.
Symphony no 5 in D minor, Op. 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 45 Minutes 35 Secs. 
6.
Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 54 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 31 Minutes 38 Secs. 
7.
Symphony no 7 in C major, Op. 60 "Leningrad" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 71 Minutes 34 Secs. 
8.
Symphony no 8 in C minor, Op. 65 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 64 Minutes 1 Secs. 
9.
Symphony no 9 in E flat major, Op. 70 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 23 Minutes 43 Secs. 
10.
Symphony no 10 in E minor, Op. 93 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 52 Minutes 12 Secs. 
11.
Symphony no 11 in G minor, Op. 103 "Year 1905" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 60 Minutes 1 Secs. 
12.
Symphony no 12 in D minor, Op. 112 "To the Memory of Lenin - 1917" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 37 Minutes 7 Secs. 
13.
Symphony no 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 "Babi Yar" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Sergei Alexashkin (Bass)
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Moscow Choral Academy
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 62 Minutes 47 Secs. 
14.
Symphony no 14 in G minor, Op. 135 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Vladimir Vaneev (Bass), Alla Simoni (Soprano)
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1969; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 45 Minutes 38 Secs. 
15.
Symphony no 15 in A major, Op. 141 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Rudolf Barshai
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USSR 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 37 Minutes 54 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10: I. Allegretto - Allegro non troppo
Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10: II. Allegro
Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10: III. Lento
Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10: IV. Allegro molto
Symphony No. 2, Op. 14, "Oktyabryu" (To October)
Symphony No. 3, Op. 20, "Pervomayskaya" (The First of May)
Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43: I. Allegretto poco moderato - Presto
Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43: II. Moderato con moto
Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43: III. Largo - Allegro

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Excellent Recording August 8, 2013 By M. Bishop (Clackamas, OR) See All My Reviews "Barshai's recording of Shostakovich's symphonies is one of the best recordings I have in my library. The music ebbs and flows with amazing clarity and richness. I have a recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, done by Vasily Petrenko, and Barshai's recording of the same symphony in this cycle compares favorably with that recording. For sound quality and musical interpretation, you cannot do better than Barshai does here. Highly recommended." Report Abuse
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