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4.8 out of 5 stars
Shostakovich: Symphony No.14 [Vasily Petrenko/ LPO] [Naxos: 8.573132]
Format: Audio CD|Change
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2014
Another quick release, within a year of the actual recording, marking the penultimate stage in the outstanding Petrenko Shostakovich cycle. Again, an excellent crystal clear recording, capturing the intricate detail of one of the composer's most challenging scores in a highly accomplished reading. Note, at the very start of 'De Profundis' , the bleached, white tone of the{Phil violins, contrasted against the darkness of the baritone soloist and sepulchral orchestral double basses. The symphony's sheer variety is successfully developed from this point, with Shostakovich the ironist in 'On Watch' and 'Madam, Look!', expressing the horror of 'The Suicide', the despair of the Sante Prison inmates, the insults of the Cossacks in their letter to the Sultan; and, forming the emotional heart of the symphony, Kuchelbecker's ode to the immortality of art in the ninth movement. The RLPO strings and percussion are on top form throughout.

The soloists are similarly outstanding. Gal James, brought in to replace the original (indisposed) soloist, conveys the tenderness of Lorelei's plea to the bishop (third movement) and the depth of tone and vocal heft needed in 'Malaguena' and 'Madam, Look!'. The baritone Alexander Vinogradov brings a sensitivity to his contributions and his intonation, unlike that of some soloists in early Russian recordings, is always perfect.

This new Naxos release replaces the previous Novak version, serviceable and with a good soprano soloist, and has the added advantage of the texts in full, with translations, instead of the summaries provided in the Novak.

The concert that preceded his recording, on 2 May 2013, billed the work as 'Shostakovich's Masterpiece'. Whether one agrees or not, there is no doubt that Petrenko has produced an outstanding reading of this profound symphony.
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on 17 April 2014
My original experience of this Symphony was the Barshai/Moscow Chamber Orchestra on vynil going back to the 1970s. The Soprano was Margarita Miroshnikova. This was the yardstick by which I came to judge subsequent renditions of this particular piece of music. Seemingly no longer available even as a CD (who has the Melodya catalogue these days?), I sought alternative recordings which regrettably never quite did it. The soprano was either too harsh or sang flat in places. This must be an extraordinarily difficult piece to pitch with the voice. These included the Neeme Järvi, Ladislav Slovak (appalling), Barshai but with the WDR Symphonie. It was the final movement by which I judged my satisfaction - Conclusion - where the two voices combine in (sorry anglicized as per the libretto) "V mig visshey zhizni ona nas strazhdet..." etc. On this Petrenko recording with Gal James and Alexander Vinogrodov I have found that which had eluded me for so long. There is such a perfect blend of voices in this last movement which I personally found profoundly moving given the context of the whole symphony. For me James, Vinogrodov and Petrenko have produced an immensely satisfying interpretation which the others have come nowhere near. All this at a budget price. I have several of the other Petrenko recordings and as they all seem to be so crisp and sharp in rendition I wondered at the timings of each movement compared to others. For instance in concert Sanderling would conduct Shostakovich Symphonies like he had a train to catch especially No 5 which does well at a quick tempo even so. However, with Petrenko we get the measure plus the lyricism without being rushed but also without becoming a dirge like the Slovak Naxos recordings which will now be placed in the reserve collection. Petrenko will now grace my CD Library pride of place. Even if you have other interpretations of Symphony 14, this is something special.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 April 2014
With the release of the 'Fourteenth Symphony', the penultimate release in the Shostakovich cycle comprising all fifteen symphonies, only the thirteenth is pending to complete the cycle with the brilliant Vasily Petrenko conducting an excellent Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Naxos label delivering an excellent in quality and clarity sound in the recordings. I intuit that the cycle is destined to become a memorable one.

The pensive mood of the symphony is reflected on the brown-yellow color of the disc cover.

The symphony has the particularity in being in effect a symphonic song-cycle, comprising a set of eleven poems on the theme of mortality, and in particular early or unjust death, for two solo singers accompanied by strings and percussion.

The poems were written by major literary figures like Federico Garcia Lorca, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Rainer Maria Rilke who all by tragic coincidence suffered a premature, early death. The songs are sung in Russian translation but in the liner note along with the Russian there is a translation in English of the original French, Spanish, and Russian texts. Also illuminating notes on the distinguished careers of the soloists, Israeli soprano, Gal James, and Russian baritone, Alexandr Vinogradov.

The eleven songs are divided in three movements comprising songs Nos. 1-3, 4-7, and 8-11 and consequently the attribution as 'symphonic song-cycle' is literally correct.

The first part symmetrically comprises a slow introduction followed by a scherzo and sonata-like allegro with slow coda. The second part comprises two relatively slow movements that frame a compact scherzo then brief intermezzo. The third part comprise three subdivisions of progressively lower tempo which is rounded off by a peremptory epilogue.

What truly animates the symphony are the magnificent voices of the two soloists and their exemplary rendition. I listened to both spellbound.

The small orchestra delivers an exquisite quality and clarity of sound while it delivers totally convincingly the varied character and idiom of the music of individual songs.
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on 1 April 2014
Seeing that this release of the Shostakovich Fourteenth, a deeply gloomy work, debuted at #1 in classical recordings indicates how popular Vasily Petrenko has become and how notable his entire Shostakovich cycle - it will conclude with one more release (Sym. 13 "Babi Yar"). Probably more than any of his other projects on disc, this long project made Petrenko's name, because he showed that he could stand up to great Shostakovich conductors on the order of Bernstein, Mravinsky, Kondrahsin, and Rozhdestvensky with fresh ideas and his immense musical gifts.

His Fourteenth is "taut and unsparing," to quote the Financial Times, to which we can add knife-edged. Where Simon Rattle, in his excellent, much more plush version from Berlin, softened the relentless theme of death that ties these eleven poems together, Petrenko's spareness is more confrontational. As most Russian recordings of the score have done, he's chosen a bass soloist with a deep, resonant voice (Alexander Vinogradov) where Rattle chose the less lugubrious Thomas Quasthoff. The young Israeli soprano Gal James seems remarkably adept at Russian, and her delivery has a touch of Slavic throatiness, adding to the reading's air of authenticity. (For the exact opposite, turn to Haitink's recording with Fischer-Dieskau and Julia Varady, singing the poems in their original languages, thus introducing Spanish, German, and French.)

Perhaps I should have led with a succinct judgment: This performance is as engrossing and musically convincing as the best of Petrenko's prevoius Shostakovich. It's only disadvantage, which will bother only a few listeners, is that the small ensemble of strings and percussion isn't expanded on the scale of Rattle's account, and the playing as such isn't world class. Even if Petrenko had the Berlin Phil. at his command, however, I think he would have delivered the same existential reading, and to his credit, the mood is not relentlessly death-riddled. He gives us as much variety of tone and timbre as I've ever heard in this symphony.
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on 30 May 2014
I have all Petrenko's/RLPO Shostakovich Symphonies to date and am pleased I have them and look forward to the final one. Looking forward to listening to the complete series in chronological order. I may be wrong but to my mind Shostakovich epitomises a great creator working within a controlling, murderous regime, testing the boundaries and expressing his and others humanity. A giant.
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on 11 June 2014
I have Petrenko's other Shostakovich recordings, which are excellent and this is no exception. The recording conveys an empathy for both music and text which is very moving.
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on 8 June 2015
A wonderful dark symphony with a magnifiscent Russian bass/baritone all about death.
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on 22 June 2016
Fantastic performance and top quality recording
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on 11 March 2015
good recording
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on 17 August 2014
This symphony was completed by Shostakovich in 1969, and premiered that same year. Dedicated to his friend, fellow composer Benjamin Britten, it is unusually structured - eleven linked movements/settings of poems by four different authors. The themes of death, and the pain and suffering leading to death pervade the work. Another novel element is the actual scoring, for soprano, bass, a chamber-sized string orchestra and percussion.

This is the penultimate release in the ongoing cycle by Petrenko and his forces, and it maintains the highest possible standards set by the previous offerings. The conductor, who seems to live and breath these works brings a logical and intelligent approach to this not overly performed symphony. The desolation and isolation are, at times, shocking.

Of the two excellent soloists, it is Vinogradov who is exceptionally fine, delivering a dramatic performance, with a resonant and richly warm tone. Petrenko brings intelligent insights to his reading, with all involved contributing to a performance of shared purpose. The percussion section comprises of a range of instruments including castanets, xylophone, vibraphone and celeste, and all emerge vividly in this exceptionally fine-sounding recording. The engineers have done a sterling job in the balance between the percussion section, the strings and the soloists, it couldn't be bettered.

My only quibble is the parsimonious CD duration of 49 minutes. I am sure something could have been included as a filler. At budget price, this release in a gem. Booklet notes by Richard Whitehouse set the context. Included are full texts and translations. Don't hesitate!
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