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Shostakovich: Symphonies No 5 & 6 / Temirkanov, St Petersburg

Release Date: 05/23/2006 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 62354   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Yuri Temirkanov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies: No. 5; 1 No. 6 2 ? Yuri Temirkanov, cond; St. Petersburg PO ? WARNER 62354 (77:30) Live: Birmingham 11/25/2005; 1 St. Petersburg 1/4/2006 2

I?ve been an admirer of Yuri Temirkanov?s recording with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic of the Shostakovich Seventh, released 10 years ago on RCA Red Seal. This new disc came Read more as a pleasant surprise, comprising, as it does, the composer?s two-part answer to ?just criticism,? performed by a conductor who once served as assistant to Evgeny Mravinsky, and who now conducts his orchestra.

The Fifth is a performance of extremes, with marked contrast between the odd-numbered slow movements and the even-numbered fast ones. The first movement is expansive but never simply slow or perfunctory. After an opening characterized by astringent strings and a quite deliberate tempo, the pulsing theme is insistent (foreshadowing the brusque march later in the movement), making an effective contrast to both the troubled and the lyrical themes, the latter full of yearning and false hope. The coda is properly mysterious and quite beautiful. The St. Petersburg orchestra sounds wonderful.

The Scherzo is delightfully silly, with its halting strings and mincing winds, becoming pompous with the military punctuations provided by the percussion and the horns. The solo violin, followed by the flute, could have been lifted from Prokofiev?s Classical Symphony, though the instruments are surely less sincere, becoming downright unctuous.

After such comic relief, the Largo is stunning in its heartfelt melancholy. At over a minute longer than Rostropovich?s most recent (superb) recording with the LSO, Temirkanov is no less effective, searching deeply within the themes, finding little solace but much feeling. The orchestra, abetted by a dry acoustic (the venue is Symphony Hall, Birmingham), complements the conductor?s interpretation with playing that is precise and intensely focused.

After a movement of such compressed emotion, the players are turned loose on the finale, and they respond with aplomb, albeit aplomb leavened with some doubt. The jury may always be out concerning the ?meaning? of this finale?are we meant to hear ?actual? joy, or only the ?forced? rejoicing allegedly referred to by the composer? Whatever the meaning, Temirkanov and his orchestra produce splendid sounds, full of force and feeling, including a not-too-fast coda; a very appreciative audience responds enthusiastically.

The acoustic for the recording of the Sixth (Philharmonic Hall, St. Petersburg) is marginally more congenial than that heard in Birmingham?more expansive, warmer, and allowing for just as much instrumental definition, somewhat favoring the winds. The long, discursive first movement in this performance is, if anything, even more convincing than that of the Fifth; the air of mystery and foreboding is evoked to perfection.

The Allegro that follows provides the same kind of contrast as the second movement of the Fifth, save that it downplays the satire of the latter and is even more reminiscent of Prokofiev. Temirkanov?s performance sparkles with wit and energy. The finale then rides off even further, trailing the ghost of William Tell. Shostakovich is never more playful than he is here, and Temirkanov?s interpretation is free from either a forced sense of jollity or from heavy-handedness, while never flying out of control. Surprisingly (at least to me), this audience is a bit less enthusiastic than its counterpart in Britain, gradually rousing itself to an ovation; perhaps the home team is simply this good all of the time.

I can recommend this disc without reservation. The logic of the pairing alone is worthy of note, but the performances and sound production more than merit serious consideration from those in search of idiomatic readings, expertly performed and recorded.

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 in D minor, Op. 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Yuri Temirkanov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USSR 
Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 54 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Yuri Temirkanov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USSR 

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