Shostakovich - Complete Symphonies Box set
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Shostakovich's music is the music of 20th Century Russia, from the turbulent revolution, through the horrors of war to the communistic repression. It is the cry of a soul in torment, expressing grief, despair in a highly personal way, through irony or bitter truth. The symphonies span Shostakovich's whole life, and form a milestone in the symphonic repertoire. They are frequently played, and have gained nearly the same popularity as Mahler's symphonies.
A stupendous new recording by Russian conductor Rudolf Barshai, an authority in this repertoire, as he has worked closely together with the composer for a long time, and premiered the 14th symphony.
Great sound from the Köllner Philharmonie, one of the world's best concert halls.
Top Customer Reviews
Any – perhaps every – collector of the Shostakovich symphonies can put together a listing of his or her favorite performances, work-by-work, without once referring to this Barshai boxed set. I know that I can, and that such a listing for me would include performances by Bernstein (the 5th), Gergiev (the 7th) Haitink (several, but most especially the 8th and the 15th), both Janssons and Karajan (the 10th), Ormandy (the 4th), Rostropovich (the 11th, in his new LSO Live recording), Stokowski (the 1st and the 11th) and Zander (the 5th). All of these (and more) are already in my library, and I wouldn't want to be without any of them.
But all of this is beside the point. In virtually every way (including performance and sonics), these Barshai recordings are highly competitive, and, as an integral complete set, are topped only by the Haitink set (at considerably higher cost). Barshai, for many years, was a close associate of Shostakovich (and the arranger of, among other pieces, Shostakovich's remarkable 8th Quartet for chamber orchestra as his "Chamber Symphony"), and he has this music in his blood. This long personal association means that Barshai understands not only what we have come to call "authentic performance practice," but all of the myriad "hidden meanings" to be found in this most autobiographical of composers.
Overall, the weaknesses are very few. The packaging is Spartan, and the documentation even less than that.Read more ›
Its main rivals are the Naxos CSPO set which, sorry, doesn't begin to compare either in terms of performance or recording quality, and the Haitinck which costs considerably more.
It is thin on background material, but then again so much Shostakovich background remains disputed that most synopses fall down by presenting only one side of the argument anyway.
This boxed set has become my 'core' set for symphonies by my favourite composer - and it costs barely more than a full price version of a single long symphony. Just don't give yourself indigestion if you're new to Shostakovich - 5, 7, 10 and this wonderful interpretation of 15 are the ones to start with. The 'clockwork' fading out at the end of the last symphony, with Shostakovich aware that he way dying, is absolutely haunting.
Open any book or article on Shostakovich and you will reliably find a lot of comment on WWII, on Leningrad, on Stalin, on Zhdanov and on conditions in the Soviet Union.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have not heard all symphonies of thes set, but those I have heard are fine. Thanks!Published 2 months ago by Nick Name
Barshai's cycle of Shostakovich stands comparison with the best (Mravinsky, Rostropovich, Jarvi, Petrenko et al.) and at budget price this is an unmissable set. Read morePublished 3 months ago by autodidact
I must confess that I didn't buy this from Amazon, but from Superdrug many years ago for only £2.99! Read morePublished 4 months ago by amateur critic 1
Superb performances of the 15 Shostakovich symphonies.Published 11 months ago by Dr. Richard Pennington
This is a very sound survey of the 15 symphonies, with many fine performances. A bargain at the price I paid.Published 14 months ago by Alan Shenton
All fifteen symphonies by the recognized major composer of the last Century, conducted by Rudolf Barshai who knew Shostakovitch well, studied with him and is well-known as a... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Frank Cox