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Another RLPO triumph,
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This review is from: Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1/ 3 (Audio CD)
Yet another excellent instalment in the award-winning Petrenko Shostakovich cycle, this time coupling the composer's stunning First with the more problematic Third. The RLPO's sheer virtuosity, referred in the preceding review, is matched by a recording of great clarity, as has been the norm in earlier releases in this cycle.
Petrenko has caught the very wide range of emotions expressed in the highly-accomplished First symphony, with quirky, sometimes sardonic playfulness (the two movements); mood of tragedy projecting in the drooping oboe and cello solos at the start of the Lento; and the unusually structured finale, starting with a recitative-like passage on oboe and tremolo strings- a device that was to become a trademark in later symphonies- introducing a lengthy struggle that leads to the final victory, expressed in an emphatic and defiant brass peroration.
After the sheer achievement of the First, the Third is a disappointment musically. True, the composer's skill as an orchestrator and his ability to challenge his players technically is again evident, and once more Petrenko and the RLPO have risen to the challenge. But this symphony is unstructured and musically seems to be going nowhere in particular. There are some gestures that were to become familiar later, including the 'busy' orchestral playing of the second part. The most satisfying section, Track 7, catches a note of repose rare in Shostakovich, beautifully conveyed in playing of great sensitivity. The composer's decision to set a rather mediocre poem celebrating revolution as a finale has probably contributed most to the generally bad press the Symphony has received. While I admired the Russian-sounding RLPO chorus, my earlier opinions of this choice of finale did not change materially.
Despite my reservations about the 3rd as a symphony, I would warmly recommend this version of both works, reasonably-priced like the rest of the Naxos Shostakovich cycle. Worth getting just for Petrenko's imaginative reading of the First Symphony alone.