Notes and Editorial Reviews
Composed over a period of nearly 50 years, Dmitri Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies are astonishingly diverse in conception and expression, reflecting the composer’s personal experiences, the history of the 20th century and the tensions and struggles of an artist under the Soviet regime. These recordings fulfil a promise that Mstislav Rostropovich made to the composer, a close and long-standing friend, before he left Russia as an exile in 1974. “These symphonies mark fifteen stages in our lives,” he said. “The emotional history of our country, my history, his history, our history.”
The pluses and minuses of this cycle are easy to summarize. The performances with the LSO (specifically, Nos. 10 and 15), are not particularly interesting, nor are they all that well recorded. All the rest are pretty excellent, especially the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, and above all, the harrowing Fourteenth. Rostropovich is never less than earnest, but there are times where he just needs to be more exciting, more raw. That said, among complete cycles, this is still one of the better options, and these performances are miles ahead of the conductor’s incredibly dull and droopy LSO remakes on that orchestra’s own label. Very recommendable, then, on the whole, even if you can do better in a couple individual works.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com