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on 23 July 2017
quality performances
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on 7 October 2016
excellent recording
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on 23 February 2017
Listened to this prior to writing an essay on Shostakovich. Beautiful stuff. Truly an iconic composer.
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on 12 March 2015
Not convinced on interpretation
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on 11 May 2012
Definitely worth having if you're a 5th devotee, but there are better interpretations. I freely admit to being a bit obsessional about Shostakovich's 5th, so was glad to receive this version. The recording itself is very good, albeit that the brass sometimes sound a little distant, but generally it's very crisp and pleasing. The treatment of the second and third movements is up there amongst my favourites and I enjoyed these hugely, but there are problems elsewhere. The first movement starts securely enough, but the start of the development, marked by the lower register piano, fails to up the pace sufficiently, and the ensemble gradually lumbers up into a rather leaden march. A matter of taste perhaps, but in anyone's book the fourth is criminally slow and I found myself shouting at the conductor to get on with it! Sadly I will listen to it less as a result. Still getting to know the 9th, so I'll not comment on that except that its good to have it.
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on 14 October 2014
superb - in every way!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 March 2014
Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra produced a truly compelling rendition of Shostakovich 5th Symphony while the humble Naxos label delivered a quality and clarity of sound which has nothing to envy from the supposedly more prestigious labels.

I intuit that the Shostakovich cycle comprising all fifteen Symphonies with Vasily Petrenko, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Naxos label is destined to become a memorable one. The 14th Symphony - which I pre - ordered - is scheduled for release on March 31st and after that only the 13th will be left pending to complete the cycle.

Few doubt that Shostakovich is a great composer. Also few deny that some of his compositions are amenable to more than one interpretations. This genius of a composer was creating his music under the oppressive Stalinist regime and some of his compositions possess a premeditated ambiguity and his Fifth is an excellent case in point.

The Fifth was unveiled on November 21, 1937, in the Great Hall of the Leningrad to huge acclaim and has since withstood the test of time. The composer in a subsequent article stated that the Symphony was his creative response to official criticism of his music and described it as an apology to lady Macbeth and the unperformed Fourth.

The change in style is dramatic. The Fifth follows an ordinary four-movement pattern: Moderato, Allegretto, Largo, Allegro non troppo.

Like Beethoven's Fifth, proceeds from tragic minor to exultant major. Beethoven's heroic Symphonies, the Eroica and the Fifth, tell stories of conflict and resolution, of protagonists overcoming obstacles to win victories. Fifth follows the same plan.

The first movement sets out the grim landscape in which the hero will have to make his way.

The second theme alludes to a phrase from Habanera in Bizet's Carmen to which Carmen sings the phrase 'Amour, amour.'

The heart of the Symphony is the slow movement, the Largo. Sounds like sobs, lonely cries in the night, calls for help, even a kind of insistent begging for mercy - four loud repeated notes high on the violins - fill the air. Over a bank of tremolo violins, one woodwind instrument after another comes forward to sing a plaintive song, which falls a fourth and then a major second. Adding to the funeral tone is an apparent allusion to Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godunov', the ultimate pageant to Russian suffering.

A brassy blast of D minor shores us into the finale. The change is so wrenching that listeners may learn to dread its arrival. The pivotal notes D and A, which sounded pensively in the first movement, now thunder on the drums, setting the stage for a martial, declamatory theme in trumpets, trombones, and tuba. The barreling energy and the motorized quality of its accompaniment nearly replicate the opening of the fourth Symphony. The brutal conclusion of the Symphony with the long, frenzied march caused confusion and consternation among listeners comprising a dubious affirmation. The publication of Shostacovich's posthumous memoirs, Testimony, set the matter straight: 'The rejoicing is forced, created under threat ... It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying 'Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing.'

Symphony No. 9 is a more benign animal. It was completed in 1945 only months after the end of World War II. In this Symphony we find much more genuine and fulfilled happiness; it is a brisk, serene, and cheerful work. The symphony is in five compact movements, the last three played without a break. It is the shortest by far of Shostakovich's later Symphonies. Shostakovich himself called this 'a merry little piece', adding that 'musicians will love to play it, and critics will delight in blasting it.' The composer was vindicated in his prophesy.

But the reader should not get me wrong, the 9th is a delightful Symphony exquisitely rendered and complements beautifully its more ambitious, violent, and ambiguous sibling.
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on 20 June 2015
This is a 3.5 star for me. The interpretation isn't consistent throughout the 5th... I was left feeling that the strategy was 'just play the notes' at times when the narrative, dramatic, form required real shaping and the music simply lost direction as a result. Yet there were some really striking moments too, some inspired playing in many places both solo and tutti ( the finale of the 5th is quite momentous). The really annoying thing though for me is due to the recording engineering (or want of it)... Set your HiFi system up for the pp sections in the 5th and you'll certainly blow your speakers in the fortissimo ones. Conversely, get the ff sections correctly set-up on your amp and you will have to raise the volume in about 30% of the 5th in order to hear anything at all!!! I'm using fairly sophisticated Cyrus and B & W equipment to listen with in one room and an Onkyo 9050, Pioneer SACD, Wharfedale 330s/sub-woofer & DALI Zensor 1s in another... Same annoying balance problem on both systems. However, the 9th Symphony, recorded three weeks after the 5th, suffers hardly at all from this balance issue! Clearly something was rectified in the interim or caused the interim?!. The 9th also has some of the momentum that the 5th lacks and is a pretty good reading. Should Naxos re-engineer the disc to restore balance in the 5th I'll give it 4.5 stars (if they send me a free upgrade that is!). As it is I'd find it hard to recommend this disc as an acceptable account of the 5th, mostly because of the balance issue. But the 9th is a pretty enjoyable reading. Sadly, most people will be interested in the 5th. Finally, I confess to buying my recording from a high Street store on this occasion (apologies Amazon).
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on 18 April 2012
Interesting recording of the Fifth.
In a nutshell, I was disappointed by what seemed like a slightly underpowered, disengaged first movement - somehow I have developed a mindset and assumption that elevates Shostakovich's first symphonic movements as the core of the piece. But that's just not how Petrenko sees it, for any sacrifice of emotional involvement is more than compensated for by an absolutely ravishing and committed third movement.

It amounts to an emotional rebalancing of the whole symphony. Which is why I'm a bit puzzled about the complaints about the fourth movement - no he's not rushing it, but why should he after the profundities of the third movement? Treating it dismissively as another Shostakovich triumphalist final movement is, as this reading shows, absolutely unnecessary.

Altogether, a genuinely satisfying new reading - one good enough to make me look again at the fireworks delivered by Mravinsky, and wonder why he is credited with having the first and last word on it.
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on 28 August 2017
The Shostakovich 5 would for many decades fill a concert hall but then it lost out to the hell-raising 10th with its breathless scherzo and quite stunning finale. Petrenko and the Liverpool band have basically reversed this and produced a performance of the 5th that makes the spine tingle and is breathtaking especially at the end. I bought the boxed set from Amazon and the whole cycle is magnificent but this disc is particularly revealing - the 9th is also very exciting. The recordings are all first rate - I have them on CD and also stream them without much apparent loss.
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