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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the "Real Deal- a definitive "Leningrad", 21 Jan. 2011
By 
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 Op. 60 Leningrad (Audio CD)
It's surprising to remember that this symphony was, until the late 60's/early 70's, "discredited" in that it was held to be a stirring piece of agitprop bombast which was fine in the context of rousing morale during the awful siege of Leningrad, but of little musical value divorced from this situation. It was pretty much lumped in with the 12th, and performances were rare in the West. Bartok had pretty well assassinated this work with his cruel but accurate parody of the first movement in his Concerto for Orchestra, and his view of the work prevailed. Ironically, it was because of this parody that I wanted to hear the original work, and in 1969 (I was 19!) I struggled to find ANY recording-and certainly not a stereo one! Out of the blue came EMI to my rescue by releasing a whole flood of Soviet made recordings-in stereo-following a contractual deal with Melodiya-and one of the first was the magnificent Kondrashin 7th!
I was immediately "blown away"-and it's poor reputation was incomprehensible to me-mind you, there were still doubts about ALL of Mahler, the Alpensinfonie, Rachmaninov 1 and 3 and many more now justly revered works.
Since then it has been rehabilitated and enjoys the reputation it deserves, with many fine recordings currently available-none are finer than this performance!

It's not without factors that need considering-the first being the recording. This was made in the same hall in Geneva where Decca recorded the Suisse Romande orchestra for so many years, and its excelent acoustics are legendary. Strings have wonderfully sinewy feel, and "shine wonderfully. Woodwind sound very forward and there is a wonderful "chocolately" feel to the lower woodwinds.
However, heavy percussion sound a little "boomy"-rather indistinct at times in the way it is subsumed into the sound picture.
As I mentioned, this acoustic is wonderfully caught by the recording.Next is the actual sound of the orchestra-Russian brass playing is alive and well, hooray! This is NOT the dreadful soupy sound of Russian Brass of 30 years ago-that was more the inferior nature of the instruments, many of which were copper-but a distinctly Slavic timbre with less wobbles.
This is WONDERFULLY fitting in this piece.
Ralph Moore has reviewed the Verdi Requiem, first release in this series, and though I liked it more than he-5 stars to his 4-I totally agree with his assertion that Temirkanov is arguably the finest Russian Conductor-woefully under represented in recent years-and this performance bears this out.
Tempi are judged to perfection-the march is strict tempo but wonderfully structured and the climaxes are perfectly judged-and cataclysmic without degenerating into noise. The coda to the first movement is heart-breakingly beautiful, the 2 inner movements are judged to perfection, the third movement being searingly poignant and played to perfection- and the climax is stirring and spectacular-I stood up at the end with tears in my eyes after the first hearing (NO-I didn't join in with the rapturous cheering!)
This is a different world from his earlier very stilted, rigid and arid reading made some years ago for RCA-you would not guess the same conductor!

There are many fine recordings already available-Jarvi, Ashkenazy (recorded with this orchestra
in the Grand Philharmonie Hall in St. Petersburg,which is a mainly wooden structure much like Bayreuth, but not live so Decca were able to seat the orchestra in the middle of the hall-as with their Concertgebouw recordings-to create a more resonant acoustic), Gergiev and Jansons to name but a few, not forgetting the superb Bernstein -and all have their merits.
The conclusion is that if you have one of these fine recordings, you have not got an inferior performance which "must be replaced"-but if you love this work as I do, you WILL want to have this performance also, and it will likely become your first choice. If you are looking to buy only one recording, you can do no better than this one for its unique Russian sound, wonderful playing-and an interpretation to leave you inspired, excited, moved and overwhelmed in equal measure. It's at mid-price also (when I bought it on amazon), which does mean very dull artwork and perfunctory booklet notes-but it's the music that counts, and this is just superb. UNRESERVEDLY recommended-more than 5 stars awarded! Stewart Crowe.
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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 Op. 60 Leningrad
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 Op. 60 Leningrad by St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Audio CD - 2010)
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