Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding combination of an insightful reading and orchestral playing recorded in powerfully matching sound, 27 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Shostakovich - Symphony No.4 (Audio CD)
This very well recorded disc from 2005 brings a performance of great emotional power combined with a raw intensity which immediately alerts the listener to the likelihood that this is the real thing. Only at one break between movements is there the slightest suggestion that there might be an audience present judging by the hardly detectable rustling typical of an audience shifting seat position but not wishing to disturb anyone. There is no other evidence to suggest that this a 'live' performance, but it feels like it!

On other discs in this fine series I have commented on Herbig's propensity for slower tempi relative to others and that this, combined with excellent orchestral playing, brings a serious weight of purpose to his readings which is not always attempted by others but which is regularly impressive and convincing. In this case, however, there is a much more marked forward pulse without in any way undermining the emotional weight of the reading.

Considering some of the alternatives, Herbig does not travel as fast as the admired Chung recording but it certainly digs deeper at all points. It also has more weight than Jarvi's otherwise fine recording with the Scottish orchestra and is at an altogether different emotional level compared to the smooth but somewhat characterless reading by Jansons. Gergiev delivers a powerful 'live' version but not quite as intense as the one broadcast from a Promenade concert and not yet issued on disc. Compared to Petrenko's fine modern recording, it becomes apparent that Herbig, as an older East German, has simply experienced the consequences of the Stalinist era in a way that Petrenko simply hasn't.

This historical perspective really matters when considering the circumstances of this contentious work's composition, the way it was withdrawn and hidden away until 1961., The symphony's raw emotional content was so closely parallel to the style of the denunciated and condemned Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk opera that its very existence was a dangerous threat to Shostakovich's life. The nearest reading to Herbig's in the way it exposes the emotional rawness of the work is that by Barshai who was a close associate of the composer and a performing duo partner for many years.

Herbig's recording being considered here has all the virtues of empathy, fine playing and a sense of 'live' electricity that makes it a particularly powerful reading. Played at about 2 dB more than normal playback levels, this is a recording that has real bite and weight.

I would suggest that, whatever other recordings that collectors already own of this essential symphonic outpouring by Shostakovich, this particular disc by Herbig is especially worth considering for potential purchase. It would also be the one I would suggest sampling of this conductor before moving on the the other discs in an impressive series.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Apr 2014 19:44:47 BDT
Great review. It also has the best cover photo of any recording I know of Shostakovich's 4th Symphony.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Apr 2014 14:32:09 BDT
I. Giles says:
Dear Jeffrey, Glad you approved of the review. It is always much appreciated to receive supportive comments. Best wishes, Ian Giles.
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I. Giles
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Location: Argyll, Scotland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 14