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Petrenko Doesn't Quite Take-off, Sadly
on 25 May 2013
I approached the new Petrenko interpretation of this Shostakovitch seventh with high expectations. It certainly has a fabulous recording, if at a slightly lower sound level than, say, the tenth symphony (an extraordinary issue on all levels); I found myself having to turn the sound up higher than usual for this one. As for the work, it needs to be said that this is one of the least characteristically 'Shostakovitch' of the fifteen symphonies, sharing similarities with the eleventh and twelfth. The three together represented 'official' Soviet music which the composer was compelled to produce from time to time. But I believe the seventh to be a substantial and powerful work with the right conductor, despite the frequent snobbery regarding it. You'd imagine that Petrenko would be ideal, but I found the first movement under-powered, beginning on the slow side and never really exciting me. The other movements fare better, and I found myself later more convinced, especially with the final allegro. But this performance never really takes off for me, and seems a little pedestrian as an interpretation. Yes, its well-played, but I suspect this is not the symphony that interests Petrenko in particular. You get the sense that he wants to get this one out of the way, and move on. I would recommend the Haitink version with the London Philharmonic (Decca), which grips you from beginning to end. In the hands of that great conductor, this really does come across as a considerable work. Petrenko's account is not 'bad' as such, just below par compared with his other fine Shostakovitch offerings.