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Shostakovich Under Stalin's Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9 / Nelsons, Boston Symphony


Release Date: 05/27/2016 
Label:  Dg Deutsche Grammophon Catalog #: 002490602   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



Nelsons is spry and precisioned and his insistence on super-keen rhythm pays off big-time. The Fifth Symphony is quite marvelous, and like the Tenth should dominate the catalog for a long time to come. To say that it brings the house down is something of an understatement.

– Gramophone

There are times when you can tell a performance will be great from the very first bars: this Shostakovich Fifth is a case in point. The Boston strings play the opening measures with epic vehemence and intensity, while the ensuing threnody has just the right chilling, “dead” timbre. It’s authentic Shostakovich, as the rest of the symphony, indeed all three
Read more symphonies in this set, go on to prove. Nelsons builds the first movement’s central climax with perfect timing, and touches in the details of the ghostly coda with loving skill. The scherzo is full of gawky humor; the great Largo, taken very slowly, features playing of great beauty and concentration, and captures all of the music’s anguish and desolation. As for the finale, Nelsons follows Shostakovich’s tempo designations with unusual fidelity, and goes all-in for the “false hope” interpretation of the crushing coda. It’s a great performance.

Nelsons and the BSO are delivering their Shostakovich in clumps now (Symphonies Six and Seven come next). If the Fifth was great, chances are the Eighth will be too, since both works have striking similarities. The first movement of the Eighth, in particular, is openly modeled on that of the Fifth, only it’s even darker (as well as longer). As in the earlier work, Nelsons finds the right balance between violence and lyricism, adopting a measured initial tempo that doesn’t turn static. The cataclysmic return to the opening gesture is aptly ferocious, but the final crash on the tam-tam could have been louder–one of those vagaries of live recording, I suppose. The bold scherzo and blistering toccata, followed by an especially numb passacaglia, provide ample compensation however, leading to an unusually probing and substantive account of the finale. The exhausted closing measures are particularly moving here.

The Ninth goes just about perfectly; it’s not a tough piece to interpret, but it has seldom sounded as effortlessly witty as it does in this marvelously played and conducted performance. It leads off this two-disc set and, will put you in a good frame of mind for the heavier Fifth to follow. Similarly, seven movements from the early, wacky incidental music to “Hamlet” (not the more familiar film score) segue into the Eighth Symphony. Each disc thus becomes a complete program by itself, if you so choose. The engineering is very low-level; turn it way up to get the full impact, and then it sounds fine. Once again the live audience is very well-behaved, and the series title “Under Stalin’s Shadow” makes even less sense now that DG has announced this as a complete cycle. Still and all, a very powerful and affecting release.

– ClassicsToday (David Hurwitz) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 5 in D minor, Op. 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USSR 
2.
Symphony no 8 in C minor, Op. 65 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USSR 
3.
Symphony no 9 in E flat major, Op. 70 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USSR 

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