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Shostakovich: Symphonies 1 & 5 - Ančerl

Shostakovich: Symphonies 1 & 5 - Ančerl

Columbia x Tower Records  TWSA-1049

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Shostakovich: Symphonies 1 & 5

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Karel Ančerl (conductor)

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Comment by Tony Reif - December 25, 2018 (1 of 2)

It's great that Tower is issuing some of Ancerl's Supraphon recordings in high-res for the first time, in DSD transfers from the master tapes. This is the first one I've tried and it's something of a mixed bag. The 1st symphony, from 1964, sounds really good - fresh-minted, clean and close-up (but still with nice sense of space). I'm not an expert on Shostakovich by any means, but this performance certainly held my attention from beginning to end. The young Shostakovich had plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and the conducting and playing are both energized and sensitive. The 5th, recorded in 1961, faces a ton of competition, and the sound is not nearly as good - violins tend to shrillness and overall it's a bit coarse and lacking detail. The performance too doesn't have such a strong individual character as to make up for the sonic deficit. I compared the first movement to Bernstein 1959 (just reissued by Sony Japan in Andreas Meyer and Rebekah Weinman's fine-sounding remix from 3-track analog and DSD mastering) and Honeck. The timings tell part of the story: 14:11, 16:19 and 17:16 respectively. Where Ancerl keeps things moving and doesn't play up the contrasts between sections, Bernstein and Honeck both make more meaning out of Shostakovich's musical structures and orchestral details, and demonstrate a masterful control over their orchestras that Ancerl can't quite match. Bernstein's reading is powerful but touchingly human, while Honeck, benefitting from today's dynamic range, creates an at times awesome, crushing and almost inhuman (super-human? machine-like?) portrayal, yet with utmost finesse (check out his transitions).

Anyone who has heard other of these Ancerl remasters, please comment.

Comment by Tony Reif - February 8, 2019 (2 of 2)

Coming back to the Shostakovich 5th after listening to Ancerl's Janacek, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky and Stravinsky, the sound strikes me as a bit better than I'd characterized it - at least as good as the Janacek from the same year, and better than Romeo and Juliet. And the performance and interpretation are certainly fine on their own terms, especially the Allegretto. There are different ways of playing Shostakovich of course, and some of that was no doubt affected by the historical circumstance of being behind the iron curtain. And I think that to say, as I did, that Ancerl doesn't have quite the same control over the orchestra as Bernstein or Honeck is not correct - better to say that the performance is rawer in places and perhaps leaves more leeway for the soloists to make their own contributions. But the orchestra is certainly together when it needs to be. Anyway, another recommendation for Ancerl fans. Listening to hia CPO can be quite addictive...