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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another triumph for a Great British Regional Orchestra in the hands of an inspired conductor!, 8 May 2013
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7, 'Leningrad' [Vasily Petrenko | RLPO] [Naxos: 8.573057] (Audio CD)
Never in my long experience has the quality of British Regional Orchestras been so astonishingly high. We take the London orchestras for granted, and indeed all the " Big Four"- and the ROH orchestra- are in superb form, but they no longer eclipse the Hallé, CBSO, Bournemouth and RSNO-and the RLPO as is evidenced on this recording yet again is a world class band in the hands of Petrenko.
I had the pleasure of hearing them deliver a thrilling performance of the original scoring of Petrouchka in the excellent acoustic of our Nottingham Royal Concert Hall in April 2013, and I can attest to the weight of tone and brilliance of execution captured here in this latest instalment of their Shostakovich cycle.
I've discussed the background of this work in other reviews, so I'll simply repeat that I am delighted that it now enjoys the reputation it deserves as one of the composer's finest works, and is now second only to the 5th in widespread popularity. My own allegiance to the 4th as his masterpiece remains unshaken, but I have always loved this work which I came to out of curiosity to hear what it was that Bartok so cruelly (and cleverly) lampooned.

Recordings made live in their Liverpool home venue do not produce quite the perfect results for the RLPO that the Birmingham Symphony Hall does for the CBSO, and there is a slightly "airless" feel about the recorded sound, but this is a hyper niggle and by any standards the recorded sound on this latest is release is stunning-almost to an excess, as the dynamic range is VERY wide and setting the volume to hear for example the entry of the snare drum at the commencement of the famous/infamous repetitive theme that depicts the German onslaught will later on result in the possible destruction of your speakers, and possibly even eardrums unless an intervention is made!

Petrenko's approach can be described as broad-79 minutes, just short of Bernstein-and an astonishing 6 minutes slower than the recent superb Nelsons/CBSO recording.
This more measured, weighty approach certainly conveys the inexorable grind of the military advance, and passages such as the depiction of the air raid sirens in the fist movement are almost excruciatingly painful in their horrific impact, and of course the slower pace in the first movements allows for more expression. There is a slight sacrifice of excitement compensated for by oppressive weight, a perfectly valid view.
However, where I expected the Adagio to be drawn out and wringing out the last vestige of intensity and pathos, it is in fact full of forward momentum, actually swifter than Nelsons by over a minute. It is very powerful, and the Liverpool strings can stand comparison with those of the Chicago, SPPO, Maryinsky and CBSO in the beauty, weight and perfection execution of their playing.
The final movement is simply brilliant and stunning! The augmented brass and massive percussive effects make the hair stand on end.
The beautiful packaging, the excellent notes, the artistry, the recording-and the price above all!-make this a top recommendation.
If I'm honest, I marginally prefer the recordings by Nelsons, Temirkanov (Signum) and Bernstein-but it IS a slim margin and when cost is factored in, this new recording comes out as a clear winner! What an asset Petrenko is!
5 Stars. Stewart Crowe.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 May 2013 18:17:39 BDT
Stewart, it's beside the point but I'm sure you will be at your concert hall on 28th June for Nelsons and the CBSO playing Beethoven. I heard them last August in the programme. It will knock you out of your seat. These are great days for the CBSO, Halle and RLPO and we are very lucky to be around to hear them. Now where are the young British conductors? .....Back to Shostakovich.....

In reply to an earlier post on 19 May 2013 18:49:16 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
We'll be there Bernard ! I booked the tickets last September to get the block booking discount - and to be sure of the middle seats,front row, First Tier! What a grand way to end the season! As for young British conductors, Daniel Lane was the great hope, but I've been disappointed by many of his recordings, the Mahler 10 in particular, but his last outing of the Brahms/Berg concerti with the VPO was stunning in every respect, as my review hopefully conveys. The recent Halle concert of Rach 3 and Symphonie Fantastique under Mandeal was very fine, especially the Berlioz. Thanks for wetting my appetite! Best Regards As Ever, Stewart.

Posted on 20 May 2013 10:37:59 BDT
R. D. Owen says:
Can't say I fully agree with the comment comparing the sound from the BSH with that of the LPH!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 11:15:50 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Fair enough, but I'm not the only one to observe it, as reviews of the Manfred and others in the Shostakovich cycle confirm. It's rather dry and " in your face" compared to the BSH and this is emphasised on cd. The RCH Nottingham is great in concert at least. However, all 3 are superior to the Barbican, RFH and RAH even after the millions spent on improving the acoustics. I did point out that it's still very good so it's not really a point of contention. Oh for a British Herkulessaal, Concertgebouw or Musikverein! Best Regards, Stewart.

Posted on 12 Jun 2014 10:13:50 BDT
I regularly attend concerts in London by the LSO, LPO and RPO. We do take it for granted that they are world class by I now feel that this is no longer the case. Increasingly over the 20 years I have attended concerts in Liverpool (RLPO), Birmingham (CBSO) and Manchester (Halle and BBC Phil). The standards of these orchestras is now often breathtaking far exceeding their London counterparts. I should also add that both for comfort and acoustically, the regional venues are also superior.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2014 18:07:06 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
Mr Edwards, we may indeed "take it for granted that they are world class" because they are.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jan 2015 22:51:51 GMT
I have to say that over the last 10 years the LSO in particular reminds me of a racehorse which has been vastly over raced. There are far too many performances and recordings by them in which they sound tired and simply going through the motions. They are in fact the world's most used orchestra from everything from adverts to movies and I'm afraid it now shows!
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