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Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6 Hybrid SACD, SACD

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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  • Audio CD (18 Dec. 2008)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD
  • Label: Arts Music
  • ASIN: B00009LW4Z
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,606 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By A Customer on 11 Dec. 2003
Format: Audio CD
There are two ways to approach this extraordinary disc. You can note in passing that these are live performances and as such are susceptible to the occasional slight imprecision (most notably the solo violin lead-in to the recapitulation of the Sixth symphony's finale), or you can forget about such things and simply be swept up, as I was, by the visceral excitement, brilliance, passion, and urgency of these "pedal to the metal" performances. The Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, led by Riccardo Chailly since 1999, is a very fine one, particularly when the players are all clearly giving 100 percent, as here. Oleg Caetani also evidently has a strong affinity for this music, offering the kind of raw, over-the-top intensity characteristic of the finest Russian performances.
The Fifth symphony features extraordinary work from the cellos and basses, and this gives the first movement's opening pages, the scherzo, and the climax of the largo exceptional weight and impact. But Caetani also knows exactly how this music should go, working the first movement up to a huge climax, projecting the scherzo's gawky lyricism without mannerism but with maximum color and bite, and quite simply blowing the roof off of the concert hall in the finale (the bitterness and "false optimism" of the coda are projected as strongly as, for example, in Kurt Sanderling's performance for Berlin Classics). The same qualities also apply to the Sixth symphony: a first movement (like the Largo of the Fifth) of uncommonly hushed intensity; one of the most forceful and rhythmically taut scherzos since Berglund's celebrated EMI recording; and a finale that quite simply manages the most satisfying ending that the work has ever received on disc.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I searched Amazon reviews of Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5 to find a suitable CD to buy as I am going to see a concert in a few weeks time where this is on the bill. I know little of Shostakovich, and have never heard this symphony before. What a jewel, it is one of the best recording I have in my collection having great clarity and amazing stereo imaging. I cannot comment on the interpretation as I have never heard the piece before, but it is played with precision and passion. The roar of applause at the end proves the live audience agrees with me. I haven't even had a chance to listen to No. 6 yet.....
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As with all this series of Shostakovich recordings, this one is outstanding (unfortunately not an SACD but you can't have everything).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd marriage of Italy and Russia, but very expressive 19 Feb. 2008
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Oleg Caetani earned a good deal of praise for this pairing of the Shostakovich Fifth and sixth, and one can see why. He has a natural, expressive way with both works. He also tries an unusual tactic of softening Shostakovich's bite, which would seem to promise failure. But instead of declawing this music, Caetani finds tenderness and lyurical dreaminess where foew others do (in the opening movement of the Fifth, for example, and the middle section of the same work's finale). Quirky as his approach is, I found myself moved by passages that I had taken for granted before.

The recorded sound is quite good. I know many lsiteners will find it queer to hear Shostakovich from Italy, even if Caetani is the son of the russian meastro Igor Markevitch (he took his mother's maiden name for the purposes of non-competition with his father). But it must be said that the Giuseppe Verdi Orch. of Milan isn't a first rate or even second rate orchestra -- a good bunch of conservatory students in New York or Philadelphia could easily outplay them -- but they are expressive and sincere, which perfectly suits Caetani's vision of this music.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware giant man-eating xylophone; otherwise, fine... 4 Aug. 2010
By J. S. Bower - Published on
Format: Audio CD
After being suitably impressed with Caetani's Shostakovich 11, this was one of the first of the other discs in the series that I sampled.

It's a difficult one to review, so let's take the performances and interpretations first. The playing is gutsy and highly committed throughout; maybe not exactly polished (this is no 'perfektion orkester', after all) but the sense of an orchestra straining to do justice to the music is actually quite exciting!

Interpretations are good, aside from some occasional unnecessary changes of gear.

Notably, in the finale of the 5th, Caetani manages to achieve just the right balance between the two opposing schools of thought of how this piece should end- the fast/triumphant and slow/false victory conductors.

I belong to the latter school of thought. Shostakovich is, after all, the master of the forced grin through tears, so I find Caetani's slow (but not TOO slow, as in Kreuzberg/Pentatone) coda just right.

The 6th is cleverly balanced- the second movement slower than usual, providing a thoughtful transition from the deep first movement to the crazy high jinks of the finale. This symphony really is weirdly structured!

Now to the sound. The 6th is just right- transparent, neutral and with good staging and dimensionality (stereo). So much for the good news, and I am happy to report that much of the 5th is also excellent. There is, however, a very blatant piece of poo in the sandwich. Maybe the producer or recording engineer is a xylophone fetishist. Anyway, whenever this appears, a giant 60-ft wide man-eater of an xylophone materialises mid-speakers and slaps you in the face. It's so blatantly close-miked and out of proportion that it's almost comic. Seriously, this is a blatant lapse of taste. Magically, in the 6th symphony, the xylophone recedes to its proper, discrete place at the back of the soundstage.

This issue is not isolated in this cycle, unfortunately, and a pattern starts to emerge. There is also a teeth-clenchingly horrible instance of a balance glitch with the celesta at the very end of the 4th symphony in this series. It's arguable moreover, that the stunning bells which close the 11th symphony are rather too much of a good thing, and cover the rest of the orchestra too much.

The morale of this? Arts recording engineers - CUT IT OUT - and please resist the temptation to muck around with spot mikes to 'help' the basically superb overall balance.

There is a touch of PCM-itis with all these recordings (24b/96kHz), so DSD would certainly help out with the occasional brazen quality to the brass and strings - although some of this may, of course, be the orchestra itself.

Given all this - and coming back to the present disc - I give it 4.5 stars for the performances, 4 stars for the sound on the 5th (it would have been five if it were not for the giant xylophone on steroids) and full 5 stars for the sonics on the 6th.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good 5th and An Outstanding 6th 29 Oct. 2009
By Dmitri - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I bought this CD a few years ago. I could of saved a little money by buying the whole set when it was released. Caetani's Shostakovich cycle is certainly one of the most notable to come out in year of Shostakovich's centenary of 2006 even compared with his son Maxim's set on Supraphon.

The 5th is very fine and well balanced. It doesn't seem to have the evils of either Bernstein, on one hand, and Rostropovich, on the other. But the 6th is just superb. A proper tempo in the Largo which isn't rushed. Of course, this leaves the symphony of balance, but then again so is Brahms Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto. The following scherzo and rondo finales are not taken to extreme fast speeds either. Instead you wallow in the poetry of the music. As I've said before to my friends the 2nd movement of the 6th symphony is like F-16 jet fighters on manuevers, but this is 1939! To me the finale says in futility "No matter what I do nothing changes." I guess that was the frustration of living in the USSR in 1939...we may never know.

Don't have any second thoughts about the Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra of Milan either. They are a never heard of top notch orchestra.

Go for it! Be bold and get one of the CD gems of the 20th century!
3 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Equisite Connoiseurship, Nos. 5 1 Sept. 2006
By Thomas Goldthwaite - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is a fine recording of two of the finest symphonies composed in the 20th century by the last symphonist of the planet's extinct species. Symphony No. 5 (1937)is a busily melodic standard concert hall favorite, so brilliantly cinamagraphic and appealing/terrifying in imagages of Stalin's long wintery reign of terror and nationalistic bluster in the chilly, old and awful Soviet Union. Musicians in any orchestra under almost any conductor always rise to their best with Shostakovich's carnival orchestrations, as with Mahler's symphonies, and it certainly happens in this Arts CD single, recorded live with excited applause with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, a theatrically and melodically apt moniker for a band well trained in piccolo/strings brilliance,crisp waltzes, village band over- exuberance and deep, yearning melancholy. The direction of Russian-trained Oleg Caetani goes for the big sweep and detailed attention to the various orchestra section effects, one supposes just the composer's humor.

And this great symphony, which is immediately enjoyable, is coupled on this CD with the equally great but neglected Sixth Symphony (1939), both written to dupe his menacing critics in the Kremlin's Kulture Dark Ages ("We need People's Music, comrade, not yours!"). Hark! The critics loved it, so Shostakovich was spared the fate of writing gulag working songs in Siberia. "Clever" is always just the right word for Dimitri Shostakovich.

The two works are equally great and seem equally structured in vast introductory landscaped octaves, and Shostakovich, as obliging a chameleon as Stravinsky, absolutely rose to his peak in orchstral nostalgia and classical form. In my opinion,his inspiration thereafter to write more and more intellectually passionate symphonies too often failed him, like Mahler's after his great Fifth Symphony, I think,and the 10 or so that followed, including the much respected hyper-active Seventh, are but distracted echoes amid growing Soviet political convulsions.

Shostakovich himself once remarked that it was getting too hard to write an allegro movement (and so his finales fell too easily into the old Slavic trap of folkish clog dances, military noise and shadow boxing (with Rossini, Verdi and stage entertainers of a bygone age. But Prokofiev could behave that way,too.)

So by all means get this wonderful pairing of Shostakovich's best, because if you're after just the Fifth it generally comes packaged with his harsher products.
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