I have had to work at appreciating Shostakovich and have over the years been gradually working my way into some of his more approachable music via the usual route of "The Gadfly", the Piano Concertos and the more digestible symphonies, starting with the First and moving on to the Tenth and the Fifth here.
I am still a novice and regard myself as no kind of authority on Shostakovich, nor can I do as I normally like to and provide a comparative element in this review but if, like me, you want to find a way into his idiom, this is the disc for you. It is available in a bewildering variety of incarnations, on the RPO's own Tring label and on various issues from Membran, including the first disc in the "Quadromania" series, plus others.
I do know that I have now discovered a dozen really first class recordings on that Tring label and have learned to trust it as a vehicle for first class music-making by one of London's three or four great orchestras.
In many ways, its provenance is unlikely: I had never thought of Mackerras as an advocate of Shostakovich or even an especially great conductor but he comes up trumps here. The sound is uniformly superb in this digital series and allows us to here the crispness precision and sonority of the orchestra. Curtain up is a rumbustious performance of the exuberant Festival Overture, but it’s the symphony which is really impressive, its savage wit, galumphing faux-naif rusticity, deep melancholy and barbaric splendour all being expertly elucidated.
This is a disc to convert the curious neophyte to a sometimes inaccessible composer.