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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all very good!,
This is a wonderful recording of Shostakovich's 4th symphony and it captures, in full-bodied clarity, superlative orchestral playing of a mighty score. Bravo! indeed to all concerned.
Every one of the many, shifting moods of this symphony are captured and characterised, the brutal (how wonderfully hammered and shrieked out in the opening), the lyrical and the mysterious. So many details of this complex score are brought out as if the work were brand new. I have listened to many recordings of this symphony, many of them extremely fine, and this one stands out in every way. There are so many characterful and beautifully played solos (bass clarinet, trombone...) and the famous frantic fugal passage for the strings in the first movement is terrifying. I am in awe of the the whole cycle so far (only 13 and 14 to go) and all at bargain prices: they would be worth collecting at full price.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another RLPO landmark,
This was recorded immediately after the live performance at the Philharmonic Hall on February 7th this year. Like the recent 'Leningrad' symphony release, it captures much of the atmosphere of the concert performance itself.
As usual, Naxos has provided detailed analytical, as well as background, notes, so it is only necessary to mention some highlights in this version. First, the very clear recording, bringing out Petrenko's attention to detail in the many sections where Shostakovich thins down his orchestration to chamber music proportions and allows gentler instruments such as the orchestral harps to stand out. Secondly, some outstanding contributions from section leaders: the first bassoon and trombones were the stars of the show in the live performance for their solos in the finale's quasi-scherzo section, and much of which of this is conveyed here. Thirdly, the Phil's upper strings, which meet the challenge of that physically demanding fugato in the first movement (5'15") and come out with flying colours.
Petrenko's interpretation of this massive work catches much of its kaleidoscopic nature, seemingly formless and ever changing, but in reality highly integrated and the work of a composer who knows exactly where he is going. The last eight minutes of the score, from what the CD notes rightly terms the 'granitic chorale' on brass, through to the chilly intensity of the final pages with their celesta chimes leaving the listener looking out into the abyss are memorably delivered here.
While not displacing older classic interpretations (e.g. Previn and Rozhdestvensky) this Naxos release has the advantage of superior sound, and clarity that enables one to admire Shostakovich's skill as orchestrator as well as composer.
Naxos has very speedily released this CD and collectors following this cycle will hope for a similarly quick release of the final works, the 14th; and the 13th (performed last week at the Phil).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A young maestro gives us a new way to hear the exhausting Fourth Sym. - light, alive, experimental,
Here's a new way to hear the fearsome, relentless Shostakovich Fourth, thanks to an inventive talent. Since he auspiciously began a Shostakovich symphony cycle for Naxos, Vasily Petrenko, now 37, has risen considerably in the world to be recognized, as he fully deserves to be, among the young luminaries of the podium. His bargain cycle parallels a much more high profile, high powered one by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orch. (it is divided between older recordings on Philips and newer ones on the Mariinsky Theater house label). It's impossible to detract from Gergiev's authority in this music, and for me his Fourth Sym. set a new standard among modern recordings, even though it has been followed by a spectacular one from Salonen and the L.A. Phil., on DG.
Petrenko would seem to be at a disadvantage with a lesser - although very good - orchestra of non-Russians, but he has successfully erased any trace of English reticence from their playing, and his musicians adore him. What enables him to go head to head with Gergiev and Salonen is the kind of inventiveness that reveals the Fourth in a new light. You hear this in the stinging first bars, which are then not followed, as usual, by brutal Machine Age clanging. All but x-raying the score, Petrenko phrases the first movement's episodes (this is the most unpredictably episodic of all the Shostakovich symphonies, defying easy consistency) with quiet attentiveness. He doesn't bluster or exaggerate. This is testimony to the fact that he has assimilated the score and understands it from the inside.
As a result, I was more engrossed in a score that's so grueling - its assaultive quality has been minimized, and we are ushered into the symphony's quirky world more intimately than in more ambitious readings, if ambition means big effects and visceral impact. Someone might carp that I've put a positive spin on the absence here of dazzling virtuosity and seismic jolts, which are certainly more evident from Gergiev and Salonen, not to mention the stupendous Chicago Sym. under Haitink on the orchestra's house label. But in return, Petrenko is so alive and vibrant, which clears the dreary pall that hangs over Shostakovich's tragic/ironic idiom. Here we are reminded of the optimistic, wildly exuberant talent of the composer's youthful, experimental years.
In the episodes where the pace gets manic - the other side of Shostakovich's depressive manner - Petrenko approaches hysteria (listen 15 min. into the first movement), showing us the difference between heady excitement and merely pounding on our heads. Naxos's sound comes into its own then, with etched high frequencies and total transparency. The sound stage is also quite wide, the miking close up but not at the conductor's elbow. The highest tribute I can pay to this new recording is that in the face of so much abrasive, tormented, enigmatic music, Petrenko continually made me want to hear more.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and convincing reading in very good sound,
This disc, very well recorded in 2013, presents a very convincing reading of this often problematical symphony. At the time it was written this was undoubtedly the most searching of Shostakovich's symphonies to date. What it was searching for was the problem as it soon fell foul of the Soviet authorities and Shostakovich withdrew it during the rehearsal stage and, as is well known, followed this work with the very contrasted fifth which was described as in response to just criticism. Thereafter Shostakovich's musical output was a cat and mouse game between himself and the censors who had power of life and death over those whom they didn't like.
This is a long symphony in three movements that each contain many contrasted sections. It therefore needs long-term vision and a firm grip on these disparate constructional considerations if it is to meld into a satisfactory whole. If that is achieved the symphony is transformed from being a difficult work in danger of fragmentation into a powerful musical statement and one of his finest symphonies. One inevitably wonders what he would have written thereafter if the authorities had not been such an intervening pressure upon him.
Petrenko, in this reading, clearly shows that he is able to control all these elements and not lose sight of the long goal. This is one of his most impressive achievements in what has proved to be an impressive series. The playing of the orchestra could be reasonably described as inspired and the recording is both clear and weighty. The quality of the recording is a major contributor to the success of the communication of Petrenko's vision of the work.
This disc therefore joins the elite of recordings of the fourth symphony. They include versions by Gergiev, Jarvi and Petrenko. Barshai should not be forgotten either for a fleet and sparse vision of some real drive. The version by Chung, which boasts fine recording and playing, is pending further listening before I shall commit myself to a considered view.
Petrenko has a considerable price advantage and I would suggest that this would be a good disc to start with as regards this symphony. Enthusiasts interested in alternative visions of note could then investigate one or more of the others listed above. Although I have cherry-picked several of the Barshai discs after sampling sections of them, I have found the individual ones I have bought to be very good too, such as the fourth. Maybe the whole set at its bargain price would be another worthwhile option to consider.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can only agree with Mr. Hemsworth...,
I can only agree with my fellow reviewer that this is an outstanding cd of perhaps, Shostakovich's most under-rated symphony, in which he pays homage to his hero, Gustav Mahler. This performance brings out all the grotesqueness of this amazing score, starting with the no-holds barred beginning that morphs into the crazy fugue for strings. There is a whistle stop at the toy shop obligato which leads to the carpet-chewing, decibel screaming finale. This performance can only further the cause of a symphony whose time has, finally, arrived. The Jarvi version of the 80's was something to behold but this version MAY just slightly eclipse it. (Although the SNO chewed at this work like a crazed dog with a bone).
Make sure the street is free of neighbours, pre-warn the Police and noise abatement society, check your house insurance and then crank up the volume. Just dont be surprised if Van Halen fans complain about the volume!!!
A wacky review? Well, it's just that sort of piece!
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the great performance we all hoped for .......,
I think most readers will know about the troubled birth of this symphony, Shostakovich's music falling out of favour with the Soviet authorities with the "Chaos Instead of Music" article publishedin Pravda, the Soviet government controlled newspaper. Whilst the work that had so upset the authorities was his opera Lady Macbeth, it was made clear that to continue with the similarly inspired Fourth Symphony was to invite severe consequences, not just for the composer but also to all those who were to take part in performing it and so Shostakovich withdrew this magnificent symphony from performance during rehearsals for its premiere, no less. More trouble followed, since the was score entrusted to the conductor of its aborted premiere, Fritz Stiedry, who then lost it during the dark days of the Second World War, requiring it to be reconstructed from the orchestral parts many years after. It finally receiving its premiere in 1961, the earliest Shostakovich felt he could get away having such "radical" music played in public. After such a tormented start to life, it is all the more remarkable how well this work has fared in recordings, with practically every Shostakovich conductor of note having put down their interpretation for posterity (notable exceptions being Mravinsky, [Kurt] Sanderling and Bernstein) with hardly a bad performance between them.
Vasily Petrenko and his Royal Liverpool Philharmonic are certainly the new kids on the block in the world of classical music, their recordings and performances (especially of Russian music) attracting much note and critical acclaim. Their recording of the Shostakovich Fourth has been eagerly awaited and rushed released in September this year, after live performances of it in February (2013). Petrenko's cycle has so far garnered near universal praise, the only weak spot being perhaps the sound which on some machines (but not all) can appear "tinny" and lacking in bass. From the very outset of this recording it is clear the conductor has some very definite ideas about this music - after those opening shrill fanfares, Petrenko really brings out the martial nature of the opening theme, each note very staccato. He goes on to pace the opening movement very well, but one does notice the slightly unusual sound picture - I tried this recording on several machines with varying results, but ultimately I felt as if I sitting in the front row of the stalls, with the strings and woodwind very much to the fore, but with the brass and percussion further back. So when that furious fugato begins in the middle of the First Movement, the strings are very much in your face - all very exciting, especially at the ferocity with which the RLPO attack it (you can practically smell the rosin and see the hairs on the bow breaking!), yet when the percussion joins the party shortly after this point, they lack impact compared to all other recordings due to sounding "further back". Yes, you do hear the violin glissandos straight after this climax clearer than on any other recording (testimony to the conductor's care over even the smallest details, realised by some very fine playing of his orchestra) plus a host of other minutia from the score , but only at the expense of a loss to some of the shock and awe that this symphony should really bring. Moving on, I found the central Moderato con moto is a bit more moderato than con moto than I would like at Petrenko's speed as well, with the consequence that it sounded a bit anonymous. The last movement is much better, the final peroration done rather more grandly than usual without grinding to a halt as it almost does in Salonen's hands, but the balance issues noted earlier remain, with the woodwind theme here very much to the fore - so much so it almost sounds lyrical, which really isn't what anybody wants. Don't get me wrong, this is a very good performance - it just isn't the world-beater everybody hoped it would be.
So which versions do I consider the finest ? Well, Shostakovich Mavens will still want Salonen's recording of the Symphony (Shostakovich: Prologue To 'Orango'; Symphony No.4 ), which although is less successful than Petrenko's, is coupled with the very interesting - and more enjoyable than you would think - Orango, Shostakovich's aborted opera on the half man/half ape figure of the title. Similarly, Rostropovich's live account on Andante (Rostropovich conducts Shostakovich ) comes coupled with precious and rarely performed discarded sketches from the Fourth Symphony, plus a performance of the main work, slow, grim and monolithic that brings out the crushing power of this symphony greater than any other. Similarly, Kiril Kondrashin and the Moscow PO (Shostakovich: Symphony No.4 ) , the performers of the eventual premiere in 1961, bring a fervour and intensity to the premiere recording of the work that hasn't been quite matched since, although one has to concede that the recorded sound isn't the greatest. However, the recordings to which I keep returning to are Barshai's, Rattle's and Jarvi's. Rattle's (Shostakovich: Symphony No.4/Britten: Russian Funeral ) is a superbly thought through and executed reading; I learn something new about the construction of the score every time I hear it and truly admire Rattle's achievement; but that's the point, I really only admire it, rather than feel it really means something, even if it is still unique and individual enough for me to want to keep it in my collection. Jarvi and the Scottish National Orchestra on Chandos (Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 43 ) on the other hand sound positively possessed - Jarvi may not build up each climax with as much skill and subtlety as Rattle, but he captures the air of fear and desperation that must have gripped the Soviet Union at the time the symphony was written better than anyone. However, the performance which seems to capture both this desperation allied to a superbly thought-through reading, is Rudolf Barshai's (Shostakovich: Symphony No.4 ); if I could have only one performance in my collection, then it would have to be this one - and it's at bargain price too. Now please don't misunderstand me - Petrenko's is still a very fine performance, but in this company he loses half a star for his performance and Naxos lose another half for their slightly disappointing sound picture. At four stars out of five, it won't disgrace anyone's collection, it just isn't the great one we all hoped it would be.
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterly performance of the Shostakovich Fourth,
The Shostakovich cycle comprising all 15 Symphonies with Vasily Petrenko conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Naxos label is nearing completion and the release of the Fourteenth is scheduled on March 31. Present evidence suggests that it is destined to become a memorable cycle.
The Fourth, the subject of the review, stakes out the boundary between the individual and society that was to remain a focal point for the composer thereafter. It is a work of epic scale and emotional scope, all encompassing, daring but a magnificent statement of artistic intent. The symphony is one of the most highly regarded of the composer's large scale works and indeed among the seminal twentieth century symphonies.
The Fourth is scored for the most extensive forces for any Shostakovich symphony while it displays all of the composer's characteristics: ambivalence and ambiguity, dissonance, melody, sardonic phrases, irony, while on occasions draws on the whole orchestra in a seismic unleashing of physical force
The opening movement is a complex and unpredictable take on sonata form that teems with a dazzling profusion of varied motives, followed by a short, eerie central movement that deftly elides between scherzo and intermezzo, the finale opens with a funeral march that gives way to a bleak and harrowing key coda.
The performance is compelling with perfect interaction between conductor and orchestra, clarity of sound, with excellence of individual organs and groups, and in parts and whole totally delivering the composer's idiom.
A valuable acquisition for the reader with an appreciation of the composer's music.
5.0 out of 5 stars A new look for a neglected work,
I first heard the Symphony No.4 around 1972 on a cassette with the LSO and Andre Previn. It was a difficult work to listen to. Now with recording with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko it is transformed. It seemed to me as if I was hearing a completely new work.
Well done Naxos and I look forward to obtaining the rest of the cycle.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performance.,
This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4 (MP3 Download)
Shoshtakovich 4 is often talked about: it earned him a rebuke from the soviet authorities that could have been a one way ticket to the Gulags. However, having listened to this a few times (after a very long gap) I think that this is a very nice symphony, full of experimentation with novel orchestration. The Petrenko series with the RLPO is excellent and this performance is no exception. I would recommend this to anyone. There are some real gems in the symphony, not least the driving opening. I really like the extra fast string fugue in the middle of the first movement. This is not an avant guard piece: the language and idiom are all pure Shostakovitch and consistent with his later symphonies. Perhaps it is a little rambling in places and could have been edited down a bit. It is certainly in contrast to his much loved and very concise symphony 5, However, it is not so different to the 8th or 10th. I think all of the early Shoshtakovich symphonies (1-4) deserve more attention.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem,
I have bought all the Shostakovich Symphony recordings by the Royal Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko. They have all been excellent, as is this recording of the No4. The discs re very good value.
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