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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 2 to October, Symphony No. 15 CD

4.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Performer: Vasily Petrenko
  • Orchestra: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Vasily Petrenko
  • Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Audio CD (7 May 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B007C4T7K6
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,739 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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These two hugely contrasting symphonies come from the opposite ends of Shostakovich's life and career. The Second Symphony was written to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Bolshevik October Revolution. Its advanced idiom of experimental textures and abstract effects can perhaps be best described as organised musical chaos. The Fifteenth was Shostakovich's last symphony and is filled with remarkable contrasts, from the rollicking quotes from Rossini's William Tell Overture and eerie references to Wagner's Götterdämmerung and Tristan und Isolde, to the last and perhaps most imaginative of the composer's symphonic passacaglias.

Widely admired as having 'superlative standards' (BBC Music Magazine) and going 'from strength to strength' (Gramophone), Vasily Petrenko's Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Shostakovich symphonic cycle has gained critical acclaim from every quarter, and each new release generates its own not inconsiderable gravitational field. Volume 7 cleverly pairs the 'difficult' but remarkably dramatic Second Symphony with the simultaneously rousing, enigmatic and emotionally draining Fifteenth in performances which once again set new standards.


'If anyone can make sense of these quirky works, it is Petrenko. His performances, the latest in a superb Shostakovich cycle with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, have all the bite, wit and finesse you could hop for.' --Financial Times, April 28/29 2012

'It's hard to say which is the more striking as atmospherically performed here...As so often, Petrenko shows the deepest sensitivity in going straight to the heart of the matter.' --BBC Music Magazine, June 2012

'Vasily Petrenko and the Liverpool orchestra set themselves very high standards from the start of their Shostakovich cycle, and with every subsequent release it's been remarkable how well those standards have been maintained. Here, it's the account of Shostakovich's last symphony that is the more remarkable, for Petrenko manages to define every detail of this strange, raw-edged score with astonishing clarity while integrating every one of them into a truly symphonic whole.' --The Guardian, 1st June 2012

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I must say that this is the finest recording of Shostakovich's Second that I have heard by some distance. The recording quality helps of course but the attention to detail from Petrenko and the RLPO pays great dividends. Written very early in his career this modernist work was a showpiece calling card for his radical early style that, in other recordings comes to a halt when the chorus introduce the patriotic text. Allegedly, Shostakovich found the text laughable and so we might expect to see some element of mockery or simple hack work on his part.

In other recordings it usually does sound like it is simply tagged on but with this recording it is an integral section in a well-wrought symphony, with the modernist effects shining through. The musical language has the thematic elasticity and drama of his recent opera "The Nose" but without the schoolboy humour (don't knock it; it really is hilarious). The battle for the soul of the revolution was still being fought when this symphony was composed and he chose to side with the modernists at the time even if his setting of revolutionary texts showed little personal engagement. In this performance at least the choral section is treated with much more than polite respect. Despite that, this stands out as a fine and seriously neglected work that here gets its just reward.

The Fifteenth was his final work in that oeuvre and, like many of his later works, sees him come full circle back to the techniques of his early pieces but now filtered through a life of pain and crippling ill health. If the Second is a public work the Fifteenth is personal and cryptic. The opening movement and the scherzo show a composer with the same voice as that in the Second but it looks backwards not forward.
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By Mondoro VINE VOICE on 19 May 2012
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The seventh in what has already been hailed as a highly accomplished cycle of Shostakovich symphonies featuring Petrenko and his Liverpool players. It brings together the modernistic, highly experimental Second Symphony, typical of the 1920s, with the composer's highly personal and cryptic final symphonic statement. Once again, a well engineered disc, from the barely audible start of the 2nd Symphony to that unnerving percussion chuntering that brings the 15th Symphony to its enigmatic conclusion.

Often dismissed as an exercise in Soviet propaganda, the Second Symphony nevertheless has music of a quality somewhat lacking in its equally propagandist successor, with a clear structure that leads from the prefatory underground writhing of the opening to the final triumph of the proletarian ode `To October' that brings the symphony to an end.

The Fifteenth Symphony was recorded after a memorable and highly acclaimed performance in September 2010, and captured here in this recording: from the quirky, comic earnestness of the first movement, the pratfalls of the scherzo, to the weightier statements of the even-numbered movements. In contrast to many of his other Shostakovich readings, Petrenko adopts a slower tempo here, amply justified as it gives the music more time to register. The massive climax in the finale (10:08) has thus been well-prepared for, making its impact even more shattering. The second movement is notable for a deeply expressive cello solo, and the bleak beauty of its funerary music, characterised by the solo trombone, ending in a passage of a hushed and chilling intensity.

An outstanding disc in so many ways.
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If you are of a certain age, Petrenko's pose on the cover looks amusingly like Jack Benny about to say "Well!" Petrenko's Shostakovich cycle, despite a peculiar lapse into ordinariness with Sym. 1 and 5, has become self-recommending, each installment a cause for curiosity and excitement. In some ways this CD is the best yet. For me, the highlight is a Fifteenth that far surpasses the best we have had to date.

Premiered in 1972 under the baton of Maxim Shostakovich, the composer's son, the Fifteenth did not win universal acclaim, as had the humanistic Thirteenth, set to Yevtushenko's scorching poetry denouncing Stalinist anti-semitism, or even the dark, melancholy Fourteenth, set to various poems about death. The enigma of the fifteenth begins with is disparity of material - many self-quotations, a "mad toy shop" opening romping along to Rossini's William Tell Over., a set of almost but not quite quotations from Tristan, a long mournful soliloquy for cello, a madcap, swirling Scherzo (the easiest movement of unriddle), and to end things, a tick-tock on the Chinese block that could be an old man's anxious waiting for death. Critics liked the bits and pieces, but few could make the score cohere in their heads, and neither could conductors. Shostakovich had repaired his rift with Mravinsky somewhat, I suppose, because after sitting out the thirteenth and Fourteenth, Mravinsky and his Leningrad orchestra turned in one of the best versions before Petrenko's.

but really, there's no comparison with any rival, Petrenko is so tuned in to the Fifteenth that he makes it sound easy. His intuitive grasp of phrasing enables him to lead a reading where every note means something musically.
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