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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two propaganda symphonies get masterful, dignified readings from Gergiev
Even though Philips has discontinued its complete Shostakovich cycle with Gergiev, the project marches ahead on the Mariinsky Theater's house label. If anything, the sonics are better, and Gergiev has kept growing in the long interim since he began the cycle with Sym. #8 in 1995. One wonders how he feels, as an artist who owes his international reputation to the fall of...
Published on 8 Dec 2010 by Santa Fe Listener

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mariinsky recording disaster. Beware...
From the audio point of view, this Mariinsky theater recording is a disaster:
The SACD multichannel layer front speaker's sound is almost like a mono recording; it does not spread beyond the front speaker and certainly it will not stretch wall-to-wall in front of the listener.
This is as a result of the recording taken from way too far from the stage, not even...
Published on 5 May 2012 by Judy Spotheim


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mariinsky recording disaster. Beware..., 5 May 2012
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Judy Spotheim "SpJ Judy" (Belgium, Europe) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony Nos. 2 & 11 (Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus / Valery Gergiev) (Audio CD)
From the audio point of view, this Mariinsky theater recording is a disaster:
The SACD multichannel layer front speaker's sound is almost like a mono recording; it does not spread beyond the front speaker and certainly it will not stretch wall-to-wall in front of the listener.
This is as a result of the recording taken from way too far from the stage, not even from a good balcony sit. It is like listening to a concert standing at the corridor that leads to the concert-hall.

This distanced recording does not allow the layer of depth withing the orchestral players to shine, (it is a bulk of a small block of sound) which does not allow dynamics to develop properly, certainly the whole 'shebang' written into passages of the Shostakovich score does not come to life (one wonders if the recording engineers were aware that a SACD is capable of 120 dB of dynamic, certainly they never listened to other SACD labels like Bis, or RCO - as to get an idea of what is technically available when occupying the SACD terrine...)
Occasionally on big climax and tutti, the front sound will wake-up from its slumber just a bit, but this will not raise the sound-picture into any resemblance to a good theater sound.
The rear speakers are hardly noticeable even with the ear close to the drivers (in case one was wondering if they get any signal).
The volume has to be advanced by about 6-to-9 dB forward (worse than some BIS SACD recording in that regard - but at least the Bis can through a wide sonic picture, an auditorium-like sound).

As said, from the audio point of view this is a sonic disaster; these poor Marinsky recordings are just SACD imposters, one should be well advised not to risk getting the other Marinsky recordings in that series, as they would far no better.

So, if you were looking to buy an impressive performance of Shostakovich symphonies, these will not fit the bill. Beware.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two propaganda symphonies get masterful, dignified readings from Gergiev, 8 Dec 2010
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony Nos. 2 & 11 (Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus / Valery Gergiev) (Audio CD)
Even though Philips has discontinued its complete Shostakovich cycle with Gergiev, the project marches ahead on the Mariinsky Theater's house label. If anything, the sonics are better, and Gergiev has kept growing in the long interim since he began the cycle with Sym. #8 in 1995. One wonders how he feels, as an artist who owes his international reputation to the fall of Communism, about the propaganda side of these two symphonies, No. 2, written to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, and No. 11, subtitled "The Year 1905" because it honors the fallen revolutionaries who stormed the Winter Palace that winter.

Whatever his private thoughts, Sym. #2 gets a rousing, thoroughly convincing reading, which is rare for a work that is almost never dusted off. Lasting only twenty minutes, it moves from restless, subterranean rumblings to an outburst of choral triumph, "To October!", an emotional arc that the Soviet apparachiks no doubt approved of. But the fascinating part is that this is not Soviet realism musically but something more experimental and interesting than you'd suppose. The orchestration is quite novel throughout, full of instrumental color. One gets the sense that a modernist composer felt safe enough to follow his own star while superficially fulfilling a civic duty. This situation would soon shift into the sinister, and Shostakovich wrote more than his fair share of scores to save his neck.

I have queasy feelings about Sym. #11, which seems like a sell-out form beginning to end, a simplistic musical canvas meant to evoke maudlin tears. Its cinematic scenario as the rebellious, virtuous martyrs gather in the hushed dawn, only to be mowed down by Czarist troops, is pure social realism unredeemed by musical worth. In concert performances I've found myself desperately hoping that somebody might be able to lend dignity to this crude patriotic farrago, and I must concede that Gergiev does the best job I've ever heard. Unlike Stokowski, who revels in the trashiness of the score, or Rostropovich, who dives headlong into its turbulence, Gergiev tosses out the pictorial scenario and approaches the work as pure music.

I applaud his sober but intense way, which brings the most rewards while avoiding the obvious pitfalls. As pure music Sym. #11 is simplistic, but it has a panoramic sweep that audiences respond to. Stokowski's recording on Everest has long been touted for its demonstration sound, but what we have here is considerably better, and so is the orchestral playing. Gergiev has always been masterful at slow, soft music, as he is here in the sustained Adagio of the first movement. The folk tune that enters in the trumpets with menacing drums advancing on the crowd is not schmaltzy, for once. The Cossacks charge in the next movement; the fallen are mourned in the third; in the finale a tocsin sounds to rouse all of Russia, presaging the revolution to come, and every step of the way is managed as well as it possibly could be. The only complaints will come, I imagine, from listeners who want this to be a cinematic work that wallows in its vulgarities. I prefer to celebrate Gergiev's magnificent rescue.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Shostakovich's 11th symphony, 21 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony Nos. 2 & 11 (Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus / Valery Gergiev) (Audio CD)
I was expecting an earth-breaking interpretation of this symphony by Gergiev and his orchestral forces and unfortunately, I was disappointed by the results. After listening to this interpretation 5-6 times, I went back to my files and retrieved three other versions that I like:
1. Rostropovich with the London Symphony (LSO-live)
2. Paavo Berglund with the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra (EMI) and
3. Petrenko with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

I thought that all of the above three readings were superior to Gergiev's, especially Berglund's whose sense of tension and fear is unbeatable. The sense of solitude after the massacre is truly breathtaking in Berglund's account of the symphony. Gergiev simply does not have it.
I would not recommend purchasing this item. Go for Berglund, Rostropovich or Petrenko.
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