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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An orchestra in top form
This is the third instalment in the Petrenko cycle of Shostakovich symphonies, and follows a much-praised public performance the month before this recording was made, in March 2009.

The 8th Symphony of 1943 is the more abstract, and arguably greater, companion to the 'Leningrad'. The long first movement is an arc of sound in which the tension inexorabkly...
Published on 4 May 2010 by Mondoro

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Shostakovich lite
The Milky Way of five-star reviews here is testimony to the success of the promotional campaign Naxos mounted for its replacement Shostakovich symphonies set, using a relatively inexperienced young conductor and an orchestra of less than worldwide renown. Vasily Petrenko was named Young Artist of the Year in the 2007 Classic FM Gramophone Awards, and his first recording...
Published 1 month ago by Jeff Wolf


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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An orchestra in top form, 4 May 2010
By 
Mondoro (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
This is the third instalment in the Petrenko cycle of Shostakovich symphonies, and follows a much-praised public performance the month before this recording was made, in March 2009.

The 8th Symphony of 1943 is the more abstract, and arguably greater, companion to the 'Leningrad'. The long first movement is an arc of sound in which the tension inexorabkly mounts to an almost unbearable climax, then unwinds slowly into an uneasy calm. Then follow two hard-driven scherzi, and a slow movement that forms the emotional heart of the work, ending with the unnerving judder of flutter-tongued flutes. The finale, following on without a break, offers a new dawn, dying away until a shift to a major key allows a tentative expression of optimism at the end.

The composer challenges the mettle of orchestral soloists, with many passages calling for great expression as well as virtuosity: a long cor anglais solo in the dying fall of the first movement; the piccolo in the scherzi; and a violin solo in the finale can be picked out from many in this visionary score. The RLPO principals are up to this challenge, with playing of great eloquence and refinement.

This is a performance which will greatly enhance the growing reputation of the RLPO and its young Russian conductor, and sits comfortably alongside the now classic versions of Mravinsky and Previn. It has the added advantage of superior modern sound to capture the extreme dynamic range of this symphony. As usual, Naxos provide excellent programme notes and the bargain price that is a feature of the company.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine modern recording to rival the very best in the European tradition, 18 May 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
This disc, very well recorded in 2009, is an impressive follow-on to Petrenko's earlier symphony 11 which garnered considerable critical acclaim. This is of the same quality on all counts.

The RLPO has progressed to worldwide standards of orchestral delivery under Petrenko in a surprisingly short period of time and has extended Petrenko's contract to 2015. Petrenko has explained in previous interviews that he has tried to develop a Russian sound within the orchestra for performances of Russian repertoire. This has required adjustments to, not only musical phrasing, but also to the actual production of the instrumental sounds behind that phrasing.

What we get here is a 'Russianised' European sound. This does not have the degree of textural or emotional rawness that one can hear in Svetlanov's recent Russian recordings for example, but it certainly delivers more of that than in Haitink's readings to take a further and opposite example. Of course, if Shostakovich is to be seen as a truly universal composer with universal messages to impart, it should be possible to appreciate his music in various national and international 'tongues' so to speak. This is why Haitink's reading of this symphony can still be admired and appreciated particularly given the fine recorded sound provided by Decca.

However there are differences. This new performance makes more of the desolation and emptiness to be found in the outer movements especially. Equally there is a more intense build up of tension in the climaxes following on from those points of desolation. The emotional contrasts are thus emphasised more radically. The faster movements such as the allegro progress with more determination and drive. Haitink always provides a degree of dispassionate restraint relatively.

I conclusion I would suggest that this disc will not disappoint those who respond well to the earlier 11th symphony by this team. The disc certainly deserves to be considered as one of the best currently available. it has the great additional advantage of offering state of the art sound at a bargain price point. Collectors of alternative interpretations should find this a fine extra recording to own. Collectors looking for an 'only' version would be wise to give this disc serious consideration.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Shostakovich lite, 23 Nov 2014
By 
Jeff Wolf (Abilene, TX USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
The Milky Way of five-star reviews here is testimony to the success of the promotional campaign Naxos mounted for its replacement Shostakovich symphonies set, using a relatively inexperienced young conductor and an orchestra of less than worldwide renown. Vasily Petrenko was named Young Artist of the Year in the 2007 Classic FM Gramophone Awards, and his first recording -- Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony by Naxos with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra -- was singled out as the 2009 orchestral recording of the year by the eminent Gramophone magazine.

The first release in Petrenko's Shostakovich cycle, the Eleventh Symphony, received mixed reviews. The second -- the Fifth and Ninth symphonies -- was so bland I gave away my copy. Some critics called it "limp and unconvincing" and "overly cautious." This Eighth Symphony was the third to be issued, and to judge by these reviews, Petrenko and the Liverpool orchestra must have improved considerably. My ears, though, tell me differently.

One reviewer describes Petrenko's opening as "discreet," praising him for being innovative. What I hear, after a 12-second silent runoff, is an intentional misreading of the score. If you set your sound controls thinking the opening chord is fortissimo as Shostakovich indicates, you'll have a hard time hearing the pianissimo 10 bars later at rehearsal figure 1. What we have instead is closer to mezzo-forte, for which I discern no justification.

In this first movement -- and throughout the recording -- the strings sound thin, undernourished. Clearly missing are the 10 double-basses Shostakovich called for to give this symphony its particularly dark tone. Either the horns are overly challenged, or the recording engineers have done a poor job of microphone placement because they seem far in the background. Without wishing to belittle musicians' honest efforts, this is not the Royal Concertgebouw or the London Symphony Orchestra.

Petrenko takes the two scherzos much too fast. In the second scherzo, especially, Petrenko's fleet-footed 6:18 undercuts the movement's implacable march of destruction. (Compare Kurt Sanderling with the Berlin Symphony Shostakovich: Symphony No 8, an inferior orchestra nobody would mistake for the Berlin Philharmonic, at 6:47 to hear the relentless assault this movement should impart.) Most puzzling is the trumpet solo at the 3:26 mark, which is blatantly flat. I'm surprised a retake wasn't ordered. Regardless, at Petrenko's jaunty tempo, the trumpet evokes Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass rather than a menacing vision of a whirling nightmare circus.

The fourth movement Largo also suffers from a tempo too rapid. At 9:34, it sounds like a cork aimlessly bobbing downstream, occasionally bumping into an obstacle but continuing on its way with no disturbing apparitions, no mystery, no terror. Because there is no tension, the ending in C Major comes with no sense of arrival, of release. Compare Sanderling in this movement. It's not just his timing of 10:32, but Sanderling's grip on sustaining the musical line. Also, the full compliment of double-basses mentioned earlier is noticeable by its absence in this movement.

A reasonable pacing of the symphony, going by the score, should take around 65 to 67 minutes. Petrenko's 61:57 (which includes the opening 12-second runoff) is somewhat misleading because he opens the Allegretto finale at a bizarrely slow pace -- much slower than the score's quarter-note = 132. As with his mezzo-forte beginning of the symphony, Petrenko's tempo deviation is pointless other than being different for the sake of being different.

Considering the prestigious award given Petrenko's CD of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony, I expected the liner notes to mention the prominent quotations of Manfred's opening alienation motto at climactic points in the Shostakovich Eighth, in the first movement at 17:02 and in the finale at 8:47. Did no one notice?

Maybe later releases in Petrenko's series are better. His recording of the Tenth was endorsed by David Fanning, who literally wrote the book on that symphony, and the July 2014 issue of DSCH Journal gave a glowing review to the final installment in Petrenko's series, the Fourteenth. Instead of this lightweight Eighth, however, I recommend Andris Nelsons and the Royal Concertgebouw, who offer a much more engaging experience on DVD and Blu-ray Shostakovich: Symphony No, 8 (Lucerne Festival Sep 2011) (C Major: 710004) [Blu-ray] [2012][Region A & B]. That concert at Lucerne possesses everything Petrenko's recording lacks, including visual contact with the musicians. Too often, I think, we listen to CDs as though the music is generated by computers, forgetting it is possible to both hear music and see it being produced by flesh-and-blood human beings at the same time. The Lucerne concert proves we can.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A 21st Century Reading, 9 Sep 2014
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
This evening I moved my living room furniture around to obtain an optimum listening position for my second immersion in the splendors of this disc. After No.10, this is my second favorite of Dmitry's symphonic corpus. I have versions by Jarvi, Rostropovich and Haitink, but from the first throbbing groan of the double basses in the opening movement one immediately knows one is into a zone of recording quality that is state of the art, and that was simply never available to previous contenders. After that, one sits on the knife-edge for the next 60 minutes, waiting for Petrenko and his players to blow it; to push too hard, to release too soon, to yield to hysteria or exhaustion; but it never happens; not once.

There's always been a bit of a niggling contest between those who cannot help but hear the historicist Shostakovich, as the lone spokesman for those voiceless ones destroyed in the huge cauldron of Soviet history, and then those who argue for a more abstracted mode of listening, claiming Shostakovich was too true an artist to succumb to the vulgarity of such directly representative music. I must confess, my humanitarian blinkers have always made it next to impossible for me to hear much more than anguished autobiography in so much of his work, this included. But perhaps I have grown older, or perhaps it is because this disc is from a conductor and players for whom all that really is receding history, but tonight I found myself listening to this work anew. No Stalin, no Blitzkrieg, no Great Patriotic War. If anything the feelings evoked resonated more with those I feel for my own time, and for the possibilities inherent in our World's future; and not just the tragic but the hopeful ones as well.

A thing that particularly works for me in Petrenko's reading is the dynamic shaping of the massive first movement. In all other versions I have heard one knows from the first note that we are going to proceed through layers of tragedy, building inexorably to a howl of universal anguish. But in this version that inexorability is absent or restrained. One knows from the start that we are discussing serious matters, but we spend much time debating them, to and fro. in a less histrionic, if no less passionate way, than has been the traditional way to date. As such, when the screaming climax comes, it is stumbled upon almost accidentally. Likewise, when it abates we aren't left entirely devastated. Possibilities for renewal remain open.

The fourth movement is one of Shostakovich's very, very slow and very, very quiet, almost ghostly slow movements. Holding the listener's interest throughout is problematic for any conductor. Petrenko gets the pace just right, but he is greatly assisted by superb recording of players working at the subtlest limits of their instruments. He also has a way of bringing out the lines that display the numerous thematic links with material from the previous movements I had not noticed before.

These and other factors mean that we arrive at the beginning of the finale in not quite the state of total despair and desolation that, in other readings, has so often rendered its beautifully chirping opening theme a cynical slap in the face. In this version of the finale there is real spring and possibilities for redemption to be heard. And when we come to the closing passages, while they retain their eerie ambivalence, they are not entirely drained of hope.

I've just pressed the button on Petrenko's No.7. I wonder if he will show me a new way of listening to that too?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern, western reading - probably superior to Haitink., 28 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
Cool and sleek, the playing of the RLPO has nothing in common with the driven, desperate, Soviet orchestras by any means, and so cannot be compared to Kondrashin (still my top choice overall) or Rozhdestvensky. As an alternative to Haitink (formerly my top western choice) on Decca, Petrenko and the RLPO provide it, and possibly beat it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An epic masterpiece imbued with sorrow, 5 Jun 2014
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Serghiou Const (Nicosia, Cyprus) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
Another magnificent recording with Vasily Petrenko conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the Shostatkovich Symphony cycle which is destined to become memorable.

The Eighth is a great tragic statement about suffering ringing as the voice of an individual sensibility speaking for the millions whose lives have been shattered by militarism, totalitarianism and cruelty. It is a powerful work built on striking contrasts between music which is at times unremittingly bleak and at others brutally intense.

The symphony's opening - dotted-note gestures in the strings leading to a sparse, bleak theme in the violins - immediately creates a sense of vast musical space within which the tension gradually mounts, the tempo increases, the themes become brutalized and the music eventually erupts into the first of the symphony's three great climaxes, drums roll crescendos punctuating massive cries from the full orchestra. The long cor anglais threnody that follows is characteristic of much of the symphony's quiet music: a sense of numb shock after the experience of horror.

The two following movements, both short and fast, take up and intensify ideas from the first movement. The second, beginning as a grimly mechanized march, contains woodwind solos in Shostakovich's most sardonic vein. The third is a grim moto perpetuo interspersed with vivid shrieks and howls, and hurtles towards the second big climax. After this the symphony's opening dotted rhythm is given out by the bass and strings, then sinks into the bass, where it is repeated eleven times, underpinning the most introverted music in the symphony, quiet throughout, with a sense of repression, exhaustion, even suffocation. There is a vast sense of relief as the music at last slides into a warm C major and a solo bassoon begins the finale.

With the recent release of the fourteenth, I look forward to the release of the thirteenth to complete the cycle in my disc collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Like all the ohter reviews...excellent value, 18 April 2014
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
This is an exciting vibrant and passionate recording...I agree with all the other reviewers and have nothing new to add...if you like Shostakovich you will surely enjoy this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT RECORDING., 27 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
I have now bought all of the Shostakovitch Symphonies recorded by the Royal Philharmonic with Vasily Petrenko.
Being totally in love with Shostakovitch's music, and having more recordings than I care to admit to, I rarely buy a CD of his work recorded by someone young. My reasoning is that someone has to have experienced life, to play/conduct this particular composer's work. I don't much care for most of Petrenko's Shostakovitch interpretations. However, I definitely make an exception for the Symphony 8. Overall It really is excellent.
The Symphony is played with tenderness where required, and with great gusto, yet at the same time clarity, (not always achieved by the greatest of Conductor's) where called for.
I would recommend anyone to listen to this performance, and come to your own conclusions. But for me, it's a winner...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous recording., 20 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
Spectacular and flawless performance by a well integrated orchestra. Together with a very good sound engineering, it's a winner. The fourth movement is terrifying. Highly recommended.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CD Review - Symphony No 10 - Shostakovich - RLP0/Petrenko Series, 13 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
This recording is part of the admirable Naxos budget price CD series of symphonies by Shostakovich with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under the able Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko. Although I am not first and foremost a devotee of twentieth-century music and prefer small-scale chamber performances to symphonies, this series presents an ideal opportunity to acquire a worthy version of the complete cycle of one of the modern age's great symphonic creations - with the Soviet Union history background and influence in evidence (a tale to be told in itself). These performances and recordings deliver a stirring sound-world. Prompt and pleasing order/delivery service.
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