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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7, 'Leningrad' [Vasily Petrenko | RLPO] [Naxos: 8.573057]

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Conductor: Vasily Petrenko
  • Composer: Dmitry Shostakovich
  • Audio CD (29 April 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00BX8TZM2
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,914 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Product description

Product Description

Three weeks after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Shostakovich volunteered with the Home Guard in Leningrad. As the siege of the city intensified, he worked on his Seventh Symphony, completing three movements before being forced to leave Leningrad and travel east by train. The work was completed in December that year. Initially he gave each movement a programmatic title, but later withdrew them, leaving this epic work as an emblem of heroic defiance in the face of conflict and crisis: 'I dedicate my Seventh Symphony to our struggle against fascism, to our coming victory over the enemy, to my native city, Leningrad.'

Shostakovich's epic Seventh Symphony is a study in defiance and survival, written largely in the ruins of the besieged city in 1941. Its reputation has fluctuated over the years, with its immediate post war reputation largely low. But in recent years it has taken its rightful place in Shostakovich's symphonic canon. As one of the twentieth-century's most recorded symphonists, the composer has been the subject of many recordings.

The award-winning Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is the UK's oldest continuing professional symphony orchestra, dating from 1840. The dynamic young Russian, Vasily Petrenko was appointed Principal Conductor of the orchestra in September 2006 and in September 2009 became Chief Conductor.

Review

Petrenko's Liverpool Shostakovich cycle will stand as a major recorded achievement for the 21st century...Fresh, beautifully phrased and vividly recorded... Petrenko's Symphony No. 7 clamours to be heard. 5*/4* ORCHESTRAL CHOICE --BBC Music Magazine June 2013

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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This is a 5* high octane performance of a bleak masterpiece with both conductor and orchestra on top form. The recording is easily comparable with the great recording made by Leonard Bernstein and the Chicago Symphony. The playing is just brilliant.
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While not quite as sinister as Berglund's, or as exciting as Bernstein's, this new Naxos recording by the Vasily Petrenko and the RLPO of Shostakovich's much-recorded war symphony has a lot going for it. The recording is both weighty and, when needed, shrill (there's much work for piccolos and first violins in their highest register). The wind soloists play beautifully throughout (special mention for the oboe and the E flat clarinet, each in the second movement). While the overall pace is slow, perhaps a little too slow in the first movement, there's still a stark, relentless quality to the rhythmic structure everywhere except the final few bars, where the last (perhaps triumphant?) climax is played as if it were a Tchaikovsky slow movement, molto rubato. I'm not sure about that, though I think I see what Petrenko means.

At any event, as others have said this is a very good recording of an excellent work, and it's very good value for money.
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Never in my long experience has the quality of British Regional Orchestras been so astonishingly high. We take the London orchestras for granted, and indeed all the " Big Four"- and the ROH orchestra- are in superb form, but they no longer eclipse the Hallé, CBSO, Bournemouth and RSNO-and the RLPO as is evidenced on this recording yet again is a world class band in the hands of Petrenko.
I had the pleasure of hearing them deliver a thrilling performance of the original scoring of Petrouchka in the excellent acoustic of our Nottingham Royal Concert Hall in April 2013, and I can attest to the weight of tone and brilliance of execution captured here in this latest instalment of their Shostakovich cycle.
I've discussed the background of this work in other reviews, so I'll simply repeat that I am delighted that it now enjoys the reputation it deserves as one of the composer's finest works, and is now second only to the 5th in widespread popularity. My own allegiance to the 4th as his masterpiece remains unshaken, but I have always loved this work which I came to out of curiosity to hear what it was that Bartok so cruelly (and cleverly) lampooned.
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After the success of previous Petrenko/Liverpool Shostakovich recordings I was counting the days to getting hold of this one, probably one of the most iconic of symphonies. Imagine the loudspeakers belting it out at the German Army across Leningrad, telling them the Russian Spirit will never be broken!
Petrenko has moulded the forces of the RLPO into a powerhouse that has the ability and arsenal to bring it off without sounding at all stretched.
I wasn't disappointed - from the very first theme right up to the final mega-crescendo chord the musicians are completely in control and know precisely what they are stating. Every change in dynamic, every new colour and timbre is part of a unified message that comes from deep down inside the soul of this most Russian of Shostakovich's symphonies.
Recording quality is at the very top quality.
I am only missing 4, 13 and 14 and then I will own the definitive cycle of the symphonies.
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I can't pretend that I find the Leningrad to be one of Shostakovich's best symphonies but it certainly served its purpose at the time and came, as so often with his works, a more subversive sub text. With the need to sound patriotic and immediately accessible tight symphonic argument is often replaced by bluster and bombast along with a fair bit of note spinning but so what if it did the job. The back story was remarkable but that doesn't necessarily make a great work.

In its favour there is still plenty of fine and memorable music along the way, particularly the requiem like third movement and the more famous opening movement.

The first movement is particularly well served by Petrenko and the Liverpool Philharmonic because the opening music often sounds a little rushed a bland characterisation of contentment. Here it is much slower and sounds spacious and pastoral, you really want to wallow in it. This makes the monothematic march all the more painful when it takes over. There are two views as to what this march depicts: the original view of it being the Nazi forces has been challenged by the lengthy debate around Shostakovich's subtexts. This alternative view was that it depicted Stalinist uniformity and conformity. Whichever way you take it depicts something ugly and brutal and that's enough.

When the pastoral theme returns there is a faint echo the Beethoven fate theme, which sounds uncannily like Mahler's irregular heartbeat theme from his Ninth Symphony. Quite what the reasoning was for that I don't know but it doesn't sound like an accidental reference.

The middle movements present contrasts between a call to arms and mourning for the dead: all superbly presented here.
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