While it well deserves its stars I did find it odd not to recognise the music of Hamlet, not realising that it was from the 1930s film (Op.32a) and not the 1960s version (Op.116 I think) I already know well. Other recordings of 'Hamlet' do not all make it clear which you're getting. That's a pity because I'm curious about the earlier music, but don't know how to get it!
I was very excited to get the next instalment of Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra's series of Shostakovitch's Symphonies for DG. The first released last year (2015) was his 10th Symphony, which won a Grammy for "Best Orchestral Performance."
So this year (2016) in this recording we have three Shostakovitch Symphonies, the 5th, 8th and 9th, and these too are all given blazing performances by Nelsons and his Boston players.
Their sound really comes alive in their own Symphony Hall, captured perfectly by DG engineers. The Boston strings sound so rich, sweeping throughout these Symphonies and there is strong woodwind and brass playing.
In fact I much prefer the way the BSO with Andris Nelsons really goes for their Shostakovitch performances to the recent NAXOS recordings conducted by Vasily Petrenko. To me their sound, good that it is, is too condensed and regimented unlike the open and spacious playing that DG have done here.
Get ready for the future release of the 6th and 7th Symphonies by the same team.
This is – as expected – a very fine set of discs by the Bostonians and Nelsons in this 20th century core repertoire. There’s nothing wrong with this interpretation, it’s top of the bill. Problem is that collectors who already own Shostakovich symphonies will stay content with what they have – there’re so many other fine recordings by f.i. Haitink, Kondrashin, Petrenko, Mravinsky, Svetlanov, Wigglesworth, Ashkenazy and the like. So this recording seems to be made for Nelsons-lover, Bostonians, people that only buy Deutsche Grammophon records and so on. I found the finale of the 5th symphony the most striking thing on the 2 discs. It’s a triumphant ending but it has an uneasy part, it’s not the triumphant orchestral playing Bernstein delivers but for me it’s an end with a question mark. I think this is very well done! The personalization of mr. Nelsons goes on. DGG is a recording label around stars or would be stars. Many of their covers show the artist, not the composer (or anything else). DGG could provide us buyers with a striking socialist realistic painting on the front; I’d like that more. Sure Nelsons’ a fine, (young, handsome, intelligent) conductor of which there’re many. I’ll never understand why labels like DGG push careers. The name Shostakovich alone doesn’t sell anymore so let’s try Shostakovich/Nelsons? Front cover: picture of mr. Nelsons, booklet: 3 more. One pic of Shostakovich. Liner notes centred on what mr. Nelsons thinks about Shostakovich, not many words about Stalin, the Zhdanov Doctrine. After this we get a Bruckner cycle, I’m sure.
And now let’s dream………. What if DGG, Nelsons and the Bostonians would be a daring trio? Not only mr. Shostakovich was Under Stalin’s Shadow! Take the Zhdanov doctrine on music of 1948 for example. How many other composers, worth noting, were condemned? Many of us know Prokofiev was under pressure too, but his music ‘Under Stalin’s Shadow’ is already expertly available. A recording of Aram Khachaturian’s 2nd symphony in really good quality by the Bostonians would be very welcome; and how about Myaskovsky’s symphonies, composed in and shortly after WW2: nrs. 20 – 27? That would be an adventure. (Under immense pressure Myaskovsky refused to deliver a speech of repentance at a meeting of the Composers' Union after Zhdanov’s speech). But somehow I think mr. Nelsons and his band will record version 1000 of Stravinsky’s ballets…. Pity.