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Another RLPO landmark,
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphony No.4 [Vasily Petrenko] [Naxos: 8.573188] (Audio CD)
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).
PS 10th December 2014: this CD has picked up several excellent reviews and just missed an Gramophone Orchestral award by a whisker.