on 14 November 2010
Petrenko is really proving himself as a champion of Shostakovich with fantastic performances of the 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th symphonies already to his name. So this masterful recording of no.10 really puts his name in the same league as such Shostakovich interpretors as Mravinsky, Ashkenazy, Gergiev and Rostropovich.
The handling of the mysterious opening is perfection, there is much sensitive playing from the RLPO soloists with an excellent dynamic range and well thought - out articulation. The thrilling climax at the centre of this movement is absolutely breathtaking, and the melancholic ending of the movement is just sublime with sensitive playing from the two piccolo solos in particular.
The second movement is given a very energetic performance with impressive virtuosic playing from the RLPO. The anger in the movement is captured exceptionally, making the listening experience all the more exciting.
The sense of tragic mystery in the third movement is caught very well with fantastic handling of Shostakovich's genius hints of the DSCH motto theme.
The woodwinds of the RLPO give astonishing solos in the mysterious opening of the fourth movement, reminiscent of the first movement. This leads into the energetic allegro section with exceptional playing from the RLPO. The climax is astounding, extremely exciting. The brief string section which brings the last bit of melancholy of the symphony after the climax is played so beautifully. After that the ending is in sight and Petrenko really pushes the best out of his orchestra, bringing an exciting, enjoyable finale. After hearing those triumphant last few bars, with the DSCH motto in the timpani, I just wanted to listen to the whole symphony over again!
Throughout the whole symphony, the performance of the RLPO is impeccable and Petrenko's handling of this great orchestra is magnificent. The Naxos sound is fantastic and really allows the glorious orchestral tone of the RLPO to shine.
To me, it is better than Karajan's attempts, however great they were. This recording just contains so much more energy and beauty! So overall, this cd is highly reccommended.
Maybe one day after his Shostakovich cycle, Petrenko would turn to Mahler...I can only dream about how amazing that would be.
The fourth issue in the Petrenko/RLPO cycle of Shostakovich symphonies reaches the composer's most accomplished work in this form, the monumental 10th. The controversy over Solomon Volkov's 'Testimony', in which much is said about its political implications, can blind one to its supreme virtue as a work rooted in a classical, abstract form, with simple themes that can be picked out and their development easily followed. For instance, in the first movement, the opening six-note motif, and the wedge-shaped second subject are developed,and then combined in a massive orchestral climax, to die away unresolved in an uneasy calm. The last movement gropes towards an optimistic conclusion, reaching an apotheosis in which the main theme, and the musical acronym of the composer's surname (D-S-C-H: D- E flat- C-B in British musical notation) combine to bring the work to a triumphant conclusion in the major key. It is a perfectly-formed symphony, travelling through the depths of despair to a final victory against the odds, and achieving what the composer's earlier exercises in this form did not quite bring off.
As in earlier issues, Petrenko adopts brisk tempi, and avoids lingering over the more introspective sections, especially in the third movement where he is obedient to the 'Allegretto' marking. His orchestra sustains the sheer momentum of the violent and angry second movement, in which the upper strings, woodwind and side-drummer play with great virtuosity. Nor is this at the expense of subtlety: in the well-judged start of the work, the lower strings emerge from nothing to set the tragic mood that defines most of this symphony. Naxos has provided the clear, rather clinical sound that a work of such searing intensity demands, as well as notes that give a background to the symphony, though the revelation that it appeared at the end of the year when Stalin died is sufficient explanation in itself.
Once more at bargain price, and recommended without reservation.
Additional Note (8 October 2011): this recording has just won an accolade as the 'Gramophone' magazine's best Orchestral recording for the past year, so this is another good reason for getting it
on 10 November 2010
The tenth is arguably one of Shostakovich' finest works, continuously battling the fifth for the gold in the popular vote, and over the last fourty-odd years a multitude of first-class performances have found their way to the mediums of LP and later CD. It is a symphony that demonstrates both great depth of emotion and at the same time the expressivety of a marching brass band (in short, Shosta at his best), and, composed in the exuberant months following Stalin's death in March 1953, it occupies a pivotal position in the oevre of the composer (for more about the symphony per se, see also my review of Semyon Bychkov's exemplary recording for AVIE).
Vasily Petrenko, by now a Shostakovich interpreter to be reckoned with, handles every note to perfection, and what a first-class orchestra the RLPO has become over the last decade! Every instrument group, sounding smooth as silk, shines like a midsummer sunrise and even the subtlest phrasing is in perfect sync. This is praise indeed - but therein, oddly enough, lies also my only real reservation when comparing this recording to others of equal standing.
Many years ago a critic for Gramophone magazine, when reviewing a Mahler recording by Leonard Bernstein, could not help complaining that once more the conductor just simply had to squeeze that last drop of neurotic angst out of the music, and this technique was beginning to feel a bit "over-done". He may have had a point, but once you've grown accustomed to heart-on-sleeve interpretations the "straight-up stuff" tends to come across as just a tiny bit bland (or under-salted, to stay in the technical language of the kitchen), and, to me at least, there was a spot or two in Petrenko's reading that was just a tad too straight forward. One example is the little "valse grotesque" of the third movement (at 7'52); this is played technically without fault but with the very stiffest of upper lips. If you turn to say Solti's recording (Decca 433 073-2) his sudden drop of pace from waltz to slightly wobbly Ländler turns the dance into something like a struggle to get out of the quicksand of a seemingly paralysed everyday life. Or Sanderling's (Naïve V 4973 live) all but impossible accelerando in the same place, that introduces a quasi-schizoid slapstick element to the otherwise grey and icy movement. Little things like that can make quite a difference. The allegro (rather trying for presto furioso, as seems to be the trend these days) is extremely effective, but again Sanderling achieves a somehow more biting effect at a slower tempo ... a scream through gritted teeth. All in all, I miss something a bit angular - even abrasive - in this performance, but for that to make its mark maybe the conductor had to be there in the old USSR when the going got rough - like Mravinsky or Sanderling or Bychkov; or maybe he had to be very far away - like Karajan, who always, to my considerable surprise, did this symphony astoundingly well. For these isolated instances of "underkill" I should like to deduct about half a star, but as that is not possible and as my qualms are related mostly to personal taste, I'll let Petrenko have the full five. Everything else is just so infuriatingly (from a critic's point of view) well done in this recording.
The Naxos engineers, having hit the target spot on in Petrenko's recording of the Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances, again manage a sound that is both sumptuous and finely detailed with a nice sense of space around the orchestra, so full marks in that department. The unstopable second movement in particular comes across as the sonic equivalent of an onrushing train; put that in your stereo and smoke it!
on 10 April 2011
The disc cover reads on the beauty of the symphony, the breathtaking musical contrasts of its movements, and the brilliance of its young conductor, Vasily Petrenko:'Shostakovich monumental symphony No.10 ranks among his finest works. From the bleak introspection of the extended opening movement, through the graphic evocation of violence in the explosive Allegro, and the eerie dance-like Alegretto alternating between dark and light, to the final movement's dramatic climax, this is a work of breathtaking musical contrasts. In 2010 Vasily Petrenko was named Male Artist of the Year at the Classical Brit Awards. His Naxos recording of Shostakovich No.8, was hailed as 'yet another Petrenko performance to join the greats' (BBC Music Magazine).'
I listened to the symphony truly spellbound by what seemed to be a benign conspiracy namely the beauty of the symphony, the brilliance of conducting, the excellence of the Royal Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra, and the crystalline clear quality of the sound;the Naxos label is inexpensive only in price because the quality of the sound compares favourably with supposedly more prestigious labels.
Incidentally I also have in my disc collection Shostakovich Symphony No.11 'The Year 1905', Shostakovich Symphonies 5&9, and Shostakovich Symphony No.8 all with the same young and brilliant conductor, orchestra, and the Naxos label and all truly excellent and strongly recommended.
on 1 September 2012
I'd had this disc for months before I finally got around to listening to it properly - and it wasn't until last week, when the sun began to head south that my thoughts started to return to Russia, Russian art, vodka, suicide in birch forests etc. So, after a row with the wife I took this disc on a pointless fuel-wasting trip along the slow lane of the motorway and cranked up the volume to the point where the local rappers/bass & drum crew were thinking about complaining.
And guess what, it's a real revalation - 'les ballons du chien', as they say across the water.
OK, so what's first? The band. So, let me tell you that these scousers play very, very well, and certainly embarrass some of the 'Premiership's' efforts in the same music. I'd probably reserve my special praise for the horns in the last two movements, but basically it's all very good indeed.
Next, the sound is clear, deep and broad; but you can't appreciate its fine quality properly until you crank it properly and firm up the bass without making it muddy (I recommend a techno setting, punchy not throbby). Suddenly you can hear the rasp of bows and really appreciate the space surrounding Naxos's sound picture which has 'the room' beautifully caught.
Now then, VP himself. Well, I confess that my personal desert island choice for this music is Mavrinky's 1970s recording. And like Mavrinsky and Haitink, Petrenko knows how to get more with less in this music: restraint pays off especially in the long sloping inclines of the first movement. And Petrenko's climaxes maintain that all-important emotional ambiguity with the upper strings blended beautifully with the woods - yet keeping the individual timbres and not lapsing into blandness and homogeneity as both Karajan's recordings sometimes do.
Petrenko's tempi are perfect. The first movement - just a shade quicker than Haitink on Decca - moves with a relentless impetus, brooding, stately but never plodding - generating real tension. The Allegro is brisk and muscular but not headlong, with the all-important percussion and trumpets beautifully captured. (It would make a killer soundtrack for a film about the Kursk and knocks spots of Walton's Battle of Britain dogfight stuff IMHO.)The third movement tempo is difficult to get right, but again Petrenko has it so that it swings yet never plods and maintains that all important gravitas. The fourth mvt is beautifully done, opening with a truly bleak sound picture where the clarinet evokes images of the endless steppe, the smoking hulks on the horizon, the fallen comrades, the onset of the merciless Russian winter and the tattered uniform which begins to seem vulnerable and pointless. Great.
The final, upbeat major-key allegro is dispensed with with romping aplomb, confidence and virtuosity across the whole orchestra; in fact I gave such a cheer at the end of it that I almost crashed into a Sainsbury's lorry.
If you listen to this symphony often you'll naturally have your own favourites that you'll return to for emotional reasons above all - and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you don't know this work yet want to explore it there's simply nothing better on the market because - apart from its World-class artistic and technical merits - the Naxos offering is great value for money and beautifully packaged too.
But don't forget to crank up the volume a bit.
on 4 August 2013
Never listened to Shostakovich before but heard this on BBC Proms. What a great, varied, lively and moving piece of work.
on 30 May 2011
For long, I thought Karajan and the BPO had made the best recording of this magnificent Shostakovitch Symphony, but I must admit that Naxos with this recording has surpassed them... Simply magnificent, even Kondrashin on the old Melodia is in the shadow of this glowing, youthfully intense reading under the baton of young Petrenko. And for the price... If you haven't ordered it yet, go ahead, you won't regret it...
This very well recorded disc from 2009 enters a highly competitive field with, arguably, Shostakovich's finest symphonic statement. The playing of the RLPO under Petrenko has reached world class levels with this release which can now be compared realistically with the likes of the BPO on this occasion.
This is one of the most powerful symphonic statements partly because it is free of any political over or undertones. The symphony moves in a seamless dramatic arc with the final movement referring back to earlier themes before ending in an exhilarating burst of virtuosic energy.
There is a view held by critics and colleagues of Shostakovich that this work, written in 1953 just after Stalin’s death, was a veiled comment about Stalin, the second movement being a direct portrait of the ruler. This darkens the mood of the piece and that darkness is brought out by interpreters such as Sanderling, Herbig, Barshai and Shipway for example. There are many other fine performances, not least either recording by Karajan and those by Jarvi and Previn who bring further insights supported by fine playing and recordings.
So how good does this new disc by Pretrenko have to be to match the above collection of individually superb discs? Well, the answer is, good enough! This performance has the long term grip of Karajan, the Russian emotional awareness of Sanderling and the orchestral thrill of Jarvi. The recording quality is simply outstanding with real presence supported by realistic internal balances. The dynamic range is very wide, from super quiet to very loud indeed. To enjoy this at its best you need to make sure the neighbours are out!
In conclusion, this disc certainly deserves to be included amongst the elite. For collectors of 'only' performances, this disc must also be a serious consideration. One of Petrenko's best so far although there are other superb options to choose from as listed above.
on 4 June 2014
This is a thrilling account of one of the great symphonies of the Russian composer. It certainly goes right into the league of top-notch recordings of this symphony. Sound quality is good but not up to audiophile standards. Highly recommended though.
on 22 December 2010
A top notch performance of the 10th. This is the one I've been waiting for to replace the Svetlanov vinyl version on EMI/Melodiya which I've played to destruction. I've never been enamoured with the Karajan version which, to me, sounds too Germanic and the others which have come out over the years have also never "done it" for me like Svetlanov. This version, on the other hand, is absolutely marvellous. The RLPO is on superb form for Petrenko and at times, even sounds like the USSR Symphony in Svetlanov's version. To say I like it is something of an understatement. Oh yes, one to keep and treasure.