Vasily Petrenko’s generally sensational Shostakovich cycle concludes with this powerful and gripping performance of the Thirteenth Symphony. The interpretation is full of distinctive touches: the notably sharp and swift take on the first movement’s “pogrom” music, and perhaps the most brilliant, pointed, and textually specific version of “humor” yet recorded.
In general, Petrenko makes the most of the opportunities for drama and doesn’t let the music drown in a quagmire of gloom–the darkness is, after all, built into the score. The desolation of “In the Store” and the atmospheric dread of “Fears” are palpable, but not exaggerated. He’s assisted by choral singing which, while equally focused and attentive to the text, has aRead more lighter sonority than we get from the best Russian and Scandinavian choirs. Bass soloist Alexander Vinogradov is also excellent, singing with a big, rich tone that never turns wooly or wobbly.
Naxos’ sonics are also excellent, with particularly well-judged balances between the choir and the orchestra. Vinogradov’s voice is well caught too, but not so close so as to sound as if he’s shouting into your ear. I do wish the ominously tolling bell had been more prominent, especially in loud passages, but having heard this piece in concert numerous times I can attest that this is how it usually sounds. Naxos’ booklet contains the transliterated text and English translation, not something to be counted on these days. A great ending to a great cycle. When the boxed set gets issued, as I assume it will, this will be a reference edition.
Symphony no 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 "Babi Yar"by Dmitri Shostakovich Conductor:
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,
Huddersfield Choral Society,
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
Period: 20th Century Written: 1962; USSR
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Powerful vocal work from Shostakovich, strongly iDecember 10, 2014By Warren Harris See All My Reviews"This Symphony, written in 1962 for bass soloist, male chorus, and orchestra is predominately concerned with the relationship between society and the individual (it is Shostakovich, after all) with a focus on the plight of Jews in Soviet society. The first movement is powerful, telling in song and sound of the atrocities of Babi Yar during the time of the Nazis, as well as the strong feeling of anti-Semitism present in parts of Russia at the time. The music is dark, downward striking, with powerful work bursting forth from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir. This is dark music making on a grand scale, and it is captivating. The second movement, Humour, concerns itself with the resilience of humor even when it is attempting to be squashed or is declared passing. Yet again and again, it reappears, unstoppable. The music from the orchestra is joyously dance-like at first, but huge and energetic in places, thundering forth to drive home the message of the text. The third movement, In the Store, is dark and oppressive, invokes the daily existence of Russian women during that time as the go about their day doing the things that need to be done whether there is joy in the doing or not. Lots of low bass rumbles forth from the orchestra, and the chorus is suitably muted throughout most of the movement. The fourth movement, Fears, is dark and tomb-like with lots of low string work from the orchestra in the beginning. The middle section of the movement features some rather dirge-like output from the chorus that leads into frenetic energy from the string section as a whole, conveying the underlying fear that still remains. The fifth movement, A Career, begins with melodic work from the flutes that is slightly brighter, but then the music becomes somewhat sardonic and the text speaks of Galileo and others that were ridiculed and scorned, although near the end of the text is this: Theyre forgotten, those who hurled curses, but we remember the ones who were cursed.. The movement ends with the statement, Ill follow my career in such a way that Im not following it!, much as Shostakovich did himself at times due to the circumstances in which he found himself. The liner notes are well written and informative, providing historical background as well as the text of the performance. The biographical material on Alexander Vinogradov (bass) is typical, but I cannot stress enough that his precise bass work on this recording is *excellent*. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vasily Petrenko, is similarly outstanding. While the music of Shostakovich is certainly not for everyone, this performance has texture, depth, and meaning, and is a wonderful achievement for the soloist, chorus, orchestra, and conductor. Highly recommended for the Shostakovich enthusiast."Report Abuse
Searing ShostakovichNovember 9, 2014By Joseph Lieber, MD (Great Neck, NY)See All My Reviews"And so closes the Petrenko Shostakovich symphony cycle. The Babi Yar is clearly one of the most intense symphonies of the cycle. The chorus and deep male voice sing beautifully, the symphony describes the horror of the time so well played and conducted by these forces.There are many superb cycles avilable including the Rostropovich, the Haitink and the Maxim Shostakovich. This cycle and the last recorded 13th are at the top of the group."Report Abuse