The tone of Shostakovich's 'Babi Yar" symphony belongs so strongly to Soviet Russia that nobody outside that climate seems able to catch it exactly right. Shostakovich and Yevtushenko had both known despair and the helplessness of artists maddened by idiotic bureaucrats. They both knew what it was like to be spied on, and they lived with the bitter disparity between Soviet propaganda and reality. Temirkanov seems perfeclty at home with those feelings, and yet unlike most of his compatriots, he isn't as black and heavy-handed.
Thus his first movement is energetic rather than weighty, faster than usual, and clearly delineated. The second movement, Humor, proceeds at a clip, which helps to relieve the bitterness of its satire. The fluttering flutes that introduce the finale sound almost happy -- overall one must consider this a markedly positive performance. Orchestra and chorus perform very well and are caught in excellent sound. The bass soloist, Gergei Aleksashkin, is a specialist in this work. He has already recorded it with Rudolf Barshai and Mariss Jansons, the latter quite recenlty. It would have been nice to hear another viewpoint vocally, but Aleksashkin is fine, without quite the bite and sarcasm I love in Sergei Leiferkus's performance under Sinaisky.
In sum, Temirkanov reinforces his reputation as one of Russia's leading conductors, and even if this isn't the most searching or tragic Shostakovich 13th, it's one of the easiest to listen to in one stretch.