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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 5
Yuri Temirkanov, cond; St. Petersburg PO
MIRARE 196 (47:29) Live: St. Petersburg 3/2012
Please indulge me, if you will, as I begin this review with a semantic objection to the uncredited back cover note, which states that “On this CD, Yuri Temirkanov performs the Fifth Symphony with the orchestra that premiered it in 1937.” To my way of thinking, unless he is capable of time-travel which enabled him to make this recording with the same personnel that played in 1937, it’s not the
same orchestra. (For that matter, I never bought into the idea that a group of musicians like these had the music “in their blood”—some kind of psychic or DNA link stretching over generations, which provides them with special insight or an emotional connection to an older piece of music, either. Specific details passed along from older to younger musicians about an idiomatic manner of phrasing, say, or unique rhythmic accents, however, is another story.) And that—other than the disc’s short playing time—is my only quibble with what is otherwise a commendable account of Shostakovich’s most popular symphony.
This appears to be the fourth recording of the Fifth by Temirkanov. The earliest I’m aware of, from a 1981 concert with the State Symphony Orchestra (Revelation), was reviewed by Christopher Abbot in
22: 2, who called it “emotionally committed” but found flaws in the recording’s sound quality. The other two, from 1997 (RCA Victor, now apparently out of print) and 2006 (Warner Classics, still available), were with the St. Petersburgers. Both received high praise, from Richard Burke (
20:4) and Abbot (
30:1), respectively, the latter especially recommending the 2006 release (which also included the Sixth Symphony) “without reservation,” as “idiomatic readings, expertly performed and recorded.”
Not having heard any of these previous releases, I cannot compare them with this most recent performance. However, the timings of this one and those from 2006 are virtually identical, and Abbot’s description is very close to my own note-taking. In this case, Temirkanov takes a moderate but fully convincing middle ground between the often whirlwind speeds of his St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) predecessor, Evgeny Mravinsky (Erato), and the more expansive concepts of Paavo Berglund (EMI) or Maxim Shostakovich (Alto). The key to his approach is an acutely judged sense of proportion—whether it’s the relationship between speeds of the various successive episodes, the breadth of his phrasing, or the balance of instrumental textures. For example, his gradual acceleration over the course of the first movement, and his deceleration through the finale, are seamless and cohesive; there are no abrupt shifts or dramatic pauses. His control over the strings, in particular, leads to some spine-tingling moments in the
and the symphony’s closing pages—the music breathes, and flows, without exaggerated details, and offers a purity of string tone at both double-pianissimo and triple-forte levels. The conclusion is powerful without sounding bombastic.
And yet, while I certainly endorse hearing Temirkanov’s way with this music, I’m not sure if purchasing this release is getting the best bang for your buck. If indeed, as Abbot’s description suggests, this performance is virtually the same as that on Warner Classics, you can save a few dollars and obtain a version of the Sixth as well. Or play it safe, and pick up this release on my recommendation. In either case, just don’t expect to hear the orchestra that Mravinsky led.
FANFARE: Art Lange
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in D minor, Op. 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1937; USSR
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Fair rendition, poor sound quality. March 14, 2013
By Fred Wassermann (West Bloomfield, MI) See All My Reviews
"I was disappointed in this recording. The interpretation was satisfactory, but not dynamic as Shostahovitch should be. I also found that I really had to crank up the volume to hear it. It is just a low energy performance."