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Shostakovitch: Symphony No. 7 'Leningrad' [Hybrid SACD]

Gergiev Audio CD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Biography

V A L E R Y G E R G I E V

Valery Gergiev is internationally recognized as one of the most outstanding musical figures of his generation. His inspired leadership as Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he oversees the Kirov Orchestra, Ballet and Opera, has brought universal acclaim to this legendary institution. Together with the ... Read more in Amazon's Gergiev Store

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Frequently Bought Together

Shostakovitch: Symphony No. 7 'Leningrad' + Shostakovich: Symphonies 4, 5, 6 (Mariinsky Orchestra/Gergiev) + Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Mariinsky Orchestra/Gergiev)
Price For All Three: £28.42

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Product details

  • Conductor: Valery Gergiev
  • Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Audio CD (3 Dec 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD
  • Label: Mariinsky
  • ASIN: B009NEP3HE
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,159 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Samples
Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Symphony No 7 ''Leningrad'': i. Allegretto28:44Album Only
Listen  2. Symphony No 7 ''Leningrad'': ii. Moderato (poco allegretto)15:30Album Only
Listen  3. Symphony No 7 ''Leningrad'': iii. Adagio19:02Album Only
Listen  4. Symphony No 7 ''Leningrad'': iv. Allegro non troppo19:03Album Only


Product Description

Product Description

Valery Gergiev continues his Shostakovich symphony cycle with an emotionally-charged performance of the Seventh Symphony. Shostakovich dedicated his Symphony No 7 to the defiance shown by the citizens of Leningrad in the face of Nazi totalitarianism. Despite the widespread reassessment that has since taken place regarding the inspirations for his symphonies, the Leningrad symphony remains a highly-potent symbol for the residents of modern-day St Petersburg. Previous releases in Gergiev s Shostakovich cycle have included Symphonies Nos 1 & 15, 2 & 11 and 3 & 10. Between them they have received two Grammy Award nominations, as well as Chocs from Classica (France) and Editor s Choices from Gramophone. Gergiev will conduct Shostakovich symphonies with the Rotterdam Philharmonic in December, and complete the Brahms & Szymanowsky cycles with the LSO in London. In January the Mariinsky orchestra will perform a number of Shostakovich symphonies with Gergiev in France and in February they return to Russia for performances of Shchedrin s 'Dead Souls' and Strauss 'Elektra'.

Review

Gergiev holds the heroic aspect (comparison with Orfeo recording) but one also suffused with tragedy ... Gergiev is ... magnificently controlled at all stages, and he draws eloquent playing from his orchestra ... very well and intelligently recording --John Warrack, Gramophone February 2013

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 'Leningrad' from St. Petersburg. 21 Mar 2013
By Bruce TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
It seems appropriate that this most Russian of symphonies should get a top-notch recording with an orchestra from its place of origin and the top Russian conductor working today, recorded in the same city as its namesake.

The Marinsky were in Gramophone's top 20 orchestras in the world and Gergiev has to be the most exciting conductor of Russian origin, at the peak of his powers now. This hybrid SACD includes multi-channel 5.0 and stereo mixes with DSD. The dynamic range is incredibly wide - at the start of the "Invasion" theme in the 1st movement, the ppp is almost inaudible and of course, moves to a huge climax, inexorably.

With all this going for it then, this should be an obvious choice for a primary recommendation; but there is still something about this I can't quite put my finger on and the huge complexity of this symphony allows for many varying interpretations.

Gergiev has apparently gone for very slow tempi and takes over 82 minutes, where other recent versions have been around 75 minutes. He seems to want to emphasise the tragedy in the symphony and no doubt this is very real and still keenly felt by Russians. As the extensive liner notes mention - this is "the voice of a shared history and the supreme musical symbol of the 1940s, a decade which wreaked devastation in every family and household.."

When listening, I didn't find the slowness of the tempo to be an problem, but it does feel like Gergiev is wringing every ounce of emotion he can from the sadder parts of the piece and the two slower movements are very highly wrought - at times you can even hear the conductor's vocalisations as he urges the orchestra on.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A problematic symphony redeemed 30 Mar 2013
Format:MP3 Download
Although I have been an ardent Shostite since first hearing the opening lines of the Symphony no.4 when a teenager in the early 60s, I must admit that I have had a hard time stomaching the Leningrad. It has really tested my loyalty and Toscanini's later renunciation and Bartok's ridicule of it in his Concerto for Orchestra have given me a hard time. I have given sympathetic hearing to various renderings of it without coming to terms with it. That bolero cover version with Lehar's 'Da geh ich zu Maxim' theme could make my toes curl. Was that the coming of war? Doesn't sound so to me. However, Shosti was there, I wasn't (but then again the author of War and Peace was born years after the Napoleonic wars) After hearing Gergiev, though, I am finally converted. He knows that there are more strings than violins and it gives depth. This is a full bodied orchestra! It has certain operatic qualities, as well. Very strange. As if there are human voices and stories hidden in the work which he brings out. So it doesn't matter that he is so slow at times (although the thumb of rule for long symphonies is not to brood). Gergiev feels close to this work (made authentic by his humming through parts of it!), and it is about time that the Russian orchestras play some Shostakovitsh.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great 13 April 2013
By DPH
Format:Audio CD
I'll keep this short. This is very good performance/interpretation but I'm afraid as with many Gergiev performances it falls short of being great. If you want to really feel the power of this work you should stick to the classic Bernstein, Chicago recording or even better get blown away by the new Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - destined to become the bench mark.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gergiev's remake of the epic Seventh is noble and exciting, always skirting vulgarity 13 Dec 2012
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is an outstanding recording that improves upon Gergiev's first one from 2003 (Philips), which combined forces from the Mariinsky and Rotterdam orchestras, good as that recording was. The remake presents a small upgrade in the sound department. Musically, there is better playing and greater insight from Gergiev - at its best this is a totally riveting performance. But first a bit of background.

The Shostakovich Seventh has switched from being one of the composer's least played works to one of the most played. It tends to be greeted uncritically, but I often wonder if the music is diamond or paste. At its 1942-43 premieres around the world the symphony was hailed as a testament "against the forces of darkness" (i.e., Nazis), but its signature "invasion march" in the first movement was not conceived to be specifically about the events of the German siege of Leningrad, which the city endured for over 800 horrific days of terror and starvation. None of the other music in this massive work is programmatic, either. The overall tone is mostly elegiac and often melancholy until the brash and rather exhausting triumphalism of the ending. The typical listener, once past the blockbuster march (a kind of patriotic 'Bolero'), might lose interest in the diffuse three movements that follow.

The symbolism of the Seventh remains powerful for Russians, and while the score fell into disrepute in the West, it was being played constantly at home. As a result, the Mariinksy musicians and Gergiev have spent years lavishing care and attention on every detail. This care shows, primarily in two ways. First, the tawdry sections are done with dignity; there's hardly any reason to cringe. Second and more importantly, the epic nature of the work rises to nobility, and the lyrical sections are handled movingly. Bombast is forgotten when the climaxes are this explosive. Even Bernstein's two recordings, from New York and Chicago, which kept the Leningrad Sym. alive during its darkest neglect, are hard pressed to match Gergiev's intensity and drive.

The first movement sets out with force in a statement by massed strings that promises an epic work, and the whole movement presses forward relentlessly, allowing only a few reprises in the bare-bones woodwind solos following the march. These are played so convincingly that my chief reservation about this symphony - that it contains stretches of banality - is overcome. Shostakovich, following Mahler's lead, often wrote unexpected versions of a slow movement and scherzo. Here the second-movement Allegretto has the same tension-releasing effect as the minuet in the Mahler Second. The tone is mournful and graceful at the same time. Gergiev's delicate handling avoids gloominess, a familiar pitfall in Shostakovich. I'm reminded that Gergiev is at his best in quiet, poignant passages. The zany middle section, which is like a psychotic carnival, has no reference to the Siege of Leningrad that I can fathom, but its satiric bitterness is memorable.

The Adagio, placed third, has always struck me as ugly and strident, leading to string-orchestra music that strains to be tragic in a grating way. Gergiev manages to voice the ugly chords so that they sound effectively modernist, and the Mariinsky strings are so astonishing in their unanimity that they sound like ten string quartets. I realize that there are fans of this score who think that not a minute of it needs to be redeemed. For a doubter like me, however, Gergiev's handling of this movement comes as a relief.

But my suspicion that this score contains a good deal of paste, and pasteboard, is confirmed in the finale. It contains grand gestures and some quick-moving sections appropriate to an uplifting ending, yet frankly, the melange sounds banal. So I'm left, as with the equally unconvincing Eleventh, to give five stars to Gergiev for his great performance, not entirely for the music being performed.

In all, one of the top-ranked Leningrads, although if you only want one, Bernstein's only rival is himself,with two astonishing performances on Sony and DG.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gergiev is galvanizing and supremely sensitive in the Shostakovich 7th 16 Nov 2013
By Andrew R. Barnard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The current lead reviewer finds this reading underwhelming because Gergiev steers away from crudeness and Soviet oppression. It may sound extreme to claim that Gergiev "almost makes this chamber music", as the reviewer says, given the indelible connections this music has with propaganda and war. But Gergiev's phrasing does have a feeling of freedom and tenderness that makes this music nearly intimate.

I agree with some of the reviewer's points, but instead of finding Gergiev's sensitivity debilitating, I think it maximizes the impact. Is it a bad thing that we can hear new contours that favor a view of the symphony that is less aggressive, more musical and varied? I don't think so, at least not when the conductor can weave so much heartfelt emotion into every bar. Listening to this recording, there are many times I catch myself spellbound at how delicately beautiful much of this music can sound. Gergiev doesn't downplay the work's power, but the famous march in the middle of the 1st movement is steady and almost calm. He's fundamentally aiming for inward depth.

The problem with many of Shostakovich's symphonies is that they can come across as rhetorical and repetitive, stretching out with banality. Charging into the symphonies with sheer force can be thrilling, but it reinforces the dark and crude aspects of Shostakovich's character. It takes great skill to interpret Shostakovich so that it moves the listener instead of painting a vivid, bleak landscape, but that's what Gergiev achieves here. Here the focus is inward and probing, so that it can be almost wrenchingly emotional. As a master of control, Gergiev manages to still be cohesive, so it would be hard to find his decisions arbitrary. Every nuance is carefully shaped without sounding fussy. The extra underlining and flexibility only seems to add to the compactness of the whole.

On a practical level, the Marinsky Orchestra is at the height of its game, responding to Gergiev with fervor and unmistakable passion. It increases my respect for the orchestra to hear how vibrant and superbly voiced they sound. The sonics are likewise stellar, enabling us to feel we are sitting in the middle of the action, picking up on the smallest details. It's hard for me to think of anything that detracts from the magnificence of this recording. It's a remarkable feat to take a symphony that is usually portentous and grim and make it personally meaningful. Gergiev has left me moved, almost unsettled, and I can only argue that he has reached the definitive level of greatness.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a disappointment for anyone who knows & loves Bernstein, Toscanini, Ancerl, Rostroprovich, etc. 5 Jan 2013
By B. Guerrero - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Sorry to present a contrarian's viewpoint to the other review given here, but I can only surmise that Gergiev must be on a mission to present a revised or corrected idea of what the Shostakovich 7th symphony - the "Leningrad" - is all about. Yes, we can always argue back and forth - until the cows come home - whether or not the 7th really is about Russia's war to stave off the invading nazis. But regardless of what Shostakovich may have been pondering, certainly the tragic and dire circumstances surrounding this period of time had to have been a major influence upon the outcome of this work. After all, the score had to be snuck out of Russia on microfilm in order for Toscanini to give its world premiere across RCA's airwaves. Millions of people across Russia lost their lives, but we all know that story. "Leningrad" was nearly lost. Before and after the war, Stalin purged millions of other Russians that the nazis didn't bag for themselves. It's a gruesome tale that most people know about, but why Gergiev wants to skate around all of that just seems baffling.

Yes, one can argue that Bernstein goes way over-the-top during the first movement's long march section on his Chicago Symphony remake (DG), but Gergiev makes this sound like a slightly rowdy Sunday outing in the park in comparison. Yes, orchestral textures are presented here with maximum clarity, but is this really music where we want that? Does such an under-cooked approach really turn what Shostakovich wrote into 'good' music? I don't think so - I think it only makes it sound superfluous, MORE 'empty' instead of less.

The second movement is marked "Moderato (Poco Allegretto)". You could argue that some conductors take this intermezzo-like movement too flowingly, but Gergiev really dilly-dallies with the tempo here. I just can't see how that's helpful. In both of the two inner movements, Gergiev way, WAY underplays the contrasting middle sections. There's absolutely no insolent or sardonic quality to the quirky middle section of the second movement. It's just 'there'.

Perhaps the one truly positive thing that can said about this performance is that Gergiev saves his one bombastic moment for the very end of the symphony (rendered quite nicely, on the whole). But even here, Gergiev's trombones present no match to almost any of the competition when they belt-out the symphony's opening motto (presented by unison strings at the very start). Listen to how Bernstein's Chicagoans absolutely smother the entire stage at the same spot (frankly, I think the CSO is better suited for Shostakovich than Mahler, but that's just me). Even Gergiev's earlier Philips recording of S7 - and yes, recorded less clearly than here - presented a product that was far more familiar to those of us who grew up on the famous recordings of the past. Paavo Berglund (EMI) presents a Shostakovich 7th, coupled with the 11th, that is also beautifully recorded and not made ridiculously bombastic either. But Berglund also presents something far closer to what those of us who already love the piece are familiar with. Gergiev almost makes this chamber music.
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