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on 27 January 2014
I have now bought all of the Shostakovitch Symphonies recorded by the Royal Philharmonic with Vasily Petrenko.
Being totally in love with Shostakovitch's music, and having more recordings than I care to admit to, I rarely buy a CD of his work recorded by someone young. My reasoning is that someone has to have experienced life, to play/conduct this particular composer's work. I don't much care for most of Petrenko's Shostakovitch interpretations. However, I definitely make an exception for the Symphony 8. Overall It really is excellent.
The Symphony is played with tenderness where required, and with great gusto, yet at the same time clarity, (not always achieved by the greatest of Conductor's) where called for.
I would recommend anyone to listen to this performance, and come to your own conclusions. But for me, it's a winner...
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on 5 January 2016
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on 28 March 2012
Cool and sleek, the playing of the RLPO has nothing in common with the driven, desperate, Soviet orchestras by any means, and so cannot be compared to Kondrashin (still my top choice overall) or Rozhdestvensky. As an alternative to Haitink (formerly my top western choice) on Decca, Petrenko and the RLPO provide it, and possibly beat it.
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on 3 April 2016
Having heard so much about this cycle from the RLPO I thought ,"if I'm going to try...I'll try the 8th"
played it once ..... hummmm?/ then again with a friend.
We agreed it just doesn't get off the page ....and when straight to Kondrashin and Bashai for
Shostakovich with bite and backbone. I won't be bothering with the others.
I have many LPs / CDs and see no reason to add these.
Sometimes the media seem to gather their own momentum.....
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 September 2014
This evening I moved my living room furniture around to obtain an optimum listening position for my second immersion in the splendors of this disc. After No.10, this is my second favorite of Dmitry's symphonic corpus. I have versions by Jarvi, Rostropovich and Haitink, but from the first throbbing groan of the double basses in the opening movement one immediately knows one is into a zone of recording quality that is state of the art, and that was simply never available to previous contenders. After that, one sits on the knife-edge for the next 60 minutes, waiting for Petrenko and his players to blow it; to push too hard, to release too soon, to yield to hysteria or exhaustion; but it never happens; not once.

There's always been a bit of a niggling contest between those who cannot help but hear the historicist Shostakovich, as the lone spokesman for those voiceless ones destroyed in the huge cauldron of Soviet history, and then those who argue for a more abstracted mode of listening, claiming Shostakovich was too true an artist to succumb to the vulgarity of such directly representative music. I must confess, my humanitarian blinkers have always made it next to impossible for me to hear much more than anguished autobiography in so much of his work, this included. But perhaps I have grown older, or perhaps it is because this disc is from a conductor and players for whom all that really is receding history, but tonight I found myself listening to this work anew. No Stalin, no Blitzkrieg, no Great Patriotic War. If anything the feelings evoked resonated more with those I feel for my own time, and for the possibilities inherent in our World's future; and not just the tragic but the hopeful ones as well.

A thing that particularly works for me in Petrenko's reading is the dynamic shaping of the massive first movement. In all other versions I have heard one knows from the first note that we are going to proceed through layers of tragedy, building inexorably to a howl of universal anguish. But in this version that inexorability is absent or restrained. One knows from the start that we are discussing serious matters, but we spend much time debating them, to and fro. in a less histrionic, if no less passionate way, than has been the traditional way to date. As such, when the screaming climax comes, it is stumbled upon almost accidentally. Likewise, when it abates we aren't left entirely devastated. Possibilities for renewal remain open.

The fourth movement is one of Shostakovich's very, very slow and very, very quiet, almost ghostly slow movements. Holding the listener's interest throughout is problematic for any conductor. Petrenko gets the pace just right, but he is greatly assisted by superb recording of players working at the subtlest limits of their instruments. He also has a way of bringing out the lines that display the numerous thematic links with material from the previous movements I had not noticed before.

These and other factors mean that we arrive at the beginning of the finale in not quite the state of total despair and desolation that, in other readings, has so often rendered its beautifully chirping opening theme a cynical slap in the face. In this version of the finale there is real spring and possibilities for redemption to be heard. And when we come to the closing passages, while they retain their eerie ambivalence, they are not entirely drained of hope.

I've just pressed the button on Petrenko's No.7. I wonder if he will show me a new way of listening to that too?
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This disc, very well recorded in 2009, is an impressive follow-on to Petrenko's earlier symphony 11 which garnered considerable critical acclaim. This is of the same quality on all counts.

The RLPO has progressed to worldwide standards of orchestral delivery under Petrenko in a surprisingly short period of time and has extended Petrenko's contract to 2015. Petrenko has explained in previous interviews that he has tried to develop a Russian sound within the orchestra for performances of Russian repertoire. This has required adjustments to, not only musical phrasing, but also to the actual production of the instrumental sounds behind that phrasing.

What we get here is a 'Russianised' European sound. This does not have the degree of textural or emotional rawness that one can hear in Svetlanov's recent Russian recordings for example, but it certainly delivers more of that than in Haitink's readings to take a further and opposite example. Of course, if Shostakovich is to be seen as a truly universal composer with universal messages to impart, it should be possible to appreciate his music in various national and international 'tongues' so to speak. This is why Haitink's reading of this symphony can still be admired and appreciated particularly given the fine recorded sound provided by Decca.

However there are differences. This new performance makes more of the desolation and emptiness to be found in the outer movements especially. Equally there is a more intense build up of tension in the climaxes following on from those points of desolation. The emotional contrasts are thus emphasised more radically. The faster movements such as the allegro progress with more determination and drive. Haitink always provides a degree of dispassionate restraint relatively.

I conclusion I would suggest that this disc will not disappoint those who respond well to the earlier 11th symphony by this team. The disc certainly deserves to be considered as one of the best currently available. it has the great additional advantage of offering state of the art sound at a bargain price point. Collectors of alternative interpretations should find this a fine extra recording to own. Collectors looking for an 'only' version would be wise to give this disc serious consideration.
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VINE VOICEon 4 May 2010
This is the third instalment in the Petrenko cycle of Shostakovich symphonies, and follows a much-praised public performance the month before this recording was made, in March 2009.

The 8th Symphony of 1943 is the more abstract, and arguably greater, companion to the 'Leningrad'. The long first movement is an arc of sound in which the tension inexorabkly mounts to an almost unbearable climax, then unwinds slowly into an uneasy calm. Then follow two hard-driven scherzi, and a slow movement that forms the emotional heart of the work, ending with the unnerving judder of flutter-tongued flutes. The finale, following on without a break, offers a new dawn, dying away until a shift to a major key allows a tentative expression of optimism at the end.

The composer challenges the mettle of orchestral soloists, with many passages calling for great expression as well as virtuosity: a long cor anglais solo in the dying fall of the first movement; the piccolo in the scherzi; and a violin solo in the finale can be picked out from many in this visionary score. The RLPO principals are up to this challenge, with playing of great eloquence and refinement.

This is a performance which will greatly enhance the growing reputation of the RLPO and its young Russian conductor, and sits comfortably alongside the now classic versions of Mravinsky and Previn. It has the added advantage of superior modern sound to capture the extreme dynamic range of this symphony. As usual, Naxos provide excellent programme notes and the bargain price that is a feature of the company.
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on 5 June 2014
Another magnificent recording with Vasily Petrenko conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the Shostatkovich Symphony cycle which is destined to become memorable.

The Eighth is a great tragic statement about suffering ringing as the voice of an individual sensibility speaking for the millions whose lives have been shattered by militarism, totalitarianism and cruelty. It is a powerful work built on striking contrasts between music which is at times unremittingly bleak and at others brutally intense.

The symphony's opening - dotted-note gestures in the strings leading to a sparse, bleak theme in the violins - immediately creates a sense of vast musical space within which the tension gradually mounts, the tempo increases, the themes become brutalized and the music eventually erupts into the first of the symphony's three great climaxes, drums roll crescendos punctuating massive cries from the full orchestra. The long cor anglais threnody that follows is characteristic of much of the symphony's quiet music: a sense of numb shock after the experience of horror.

The two following movements, both short and fast, take up and intensify ideas from the first movement. The second, beginning as a grimly mechanized march, contains woodwind solos in Shostakovich's most sardonic vein. The third is a grim moto perpetuo interspersed with vivid shrieks and howls, and hurtles towards the second big climax. After this the symphony's opening dotted rhythm is given out by the bass and strings, then sinks into the bass, where it is repeated eleven times, underpinning the most introverted music in the symphony, quiet throughout, with a sense of repression, exhaustion, even suffocation. There is a vast sense of relief as the music at last slides into a warm C major and a solo bassoon begins the finale.

With the recent release of the fourteenth, I look forward to the release of the thirteenth to complete the cycle in my disc collection.
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on 24 April 2017
BBC Radio 3 Building a Library Choice — November 2013.
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on 20 June 2013
Spectacular and flawless performance by a well integrated orchestra. Together with a very good sound engineering, it's a winner. The fourth movement is terrifying. Highly recommended.
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