Notes and Editorial Reviews
Vladimir Ashkenazy’s Shostakovich cycle is a very good one, and this performance of the Fifth Symphony is typical of its elevated quality. It’s very well played, and naturally paced. You won’t find the ultimate in expressive intensity in the Largo, perhaps, but there’s nothing unexciting or half-hearted about the climax of the first movement development section, or Ashkenazy’s handling of the finale. The sound clip below, from the coda, gives a good sense of what to expect: generous flexibility of pulse, and a basic speed that allows the strings’ grinding away at their repeated notes to make the music’s paradoxical point of “triumphant suffering.” The performance is also extremely well recorded, and the coupling, an equally vivid version of
the Eighth Quartet in its string orchestral arrangement by Rudolf Barshai as “Chamber Symphony Op. 110a,” is both generous time-wise and unusual, but also singularly apt.
This particular reissue comes in Universal’s latest 20th Century Classics collection, here called “20C.” The packaging is a flimsy paper sleeve, although there is a program note booklet. A little logo suggests that doing this way is more “green,” but cheap is as cheap looks. And seriously, didn’t the series concept make more sense back when we were actually in the 20th century–at least then the idea that the music was truly modern and contemporary had some relevance? Let’s put it this way: Shostakovich’s Fifth was composed in 1937, so it’s 75 years old. Had this series started in 1937, then by the same logic it could be offering symphonies by Brahms and Dvorák as “modern music.” Anyway, marketing issues aside, if you like the program then this disc is worth considering.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in D minor, Op. 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1937; USSR
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