Shostakovich: Symphonies 6 & 15 - Noseda
LSO Live LSO0878
Classical - Orchestral
Shostakovich: Symphonies 6 & 15
London Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda (conductor)
Following the success of his Fifth Symphony, all eyes were on Shostakovich to create a work that would measure up to its predecessor. The Sixth was originally intended as an immense musical monument to Lenin, to be woven with heroic melodies and folk songs. Instead his audiences were surprised to hear a quite different result—a contemplative, restrained first movement that morphs puzzlingly into a ferocious ending.
The Fifteenth is another of Shostakovich’s musical enigmas, with inexplicable quotes from music by Rossini, Glinka and Wagner dotted throughout, alongside references to his own music from his younger years. Written in 1970–71 when the composer’s health was declining, this final symphony is one of fond reflection. Together these unconventional works showcase Shostakovich’s range as a composer—from wild exuberance to quiet introspection.
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Review by Graham Williams - July 17, 2023
Couplings of Shostakovich’s symphonies on SACD in various permutations continue unabated, suggesting that the public appetite both in the concert hall and on disc for new interpretations of these 20th century masterpieces is as strong as ever.
This is the latest release in the projected cycle of the composer’s fifteen symphonies from Gianandrea Noseda and the London Symphony Orchestra on the LSO Live label and it couples Symphony No 6 in B Minor, Op. 54 (1939) with Symphony No 15 in A Major, Op. 141 (1970-71).
On this SACD the 15th Symphony is placed first. It was recorded in DSD 256fs at performances given at the Barbican Hall in February 2022. As those familiar with Noseda’s dynamic conducting style will expect, the performance here is scrupulously prepared and magnificently played by the LSO. with the many instrumental solos delivered immaculately and with the utmost sensitivity. Noseda’s firm grip of the work’s structure and his rhythmic propulsion of the music leads to a most satisfying account of this enigmatic score. The sound quality, as captured by the Classic Sound team, is especially fine with a wide soundstage (though perhaps a little lacking in depth due to the nature of the Barbican acoustic), and Shostakovich’s extensive use of percussion, an important feature of this score, is especially well delineated.
The 6th Symphony that completes this disc was recorded as long ago as 31st October 2019 in the same venue, but apart from a little dryness in the string tone, it is equally well recorded. This strange three-movement work – a long brooding Largo followed by two short fast movements is a considerable challenge for interpreters.
Noseda’s performance of the opening Largo (17.42) is swifter than that adopted by many conductors (Leonard Bernstein compelling 1987 version with the Vienna Philharmonic took 22 minutes!). Although he shapes the composer's long-breathed melodic lines with consummate skill and the orchestra are meticulous in observing the many dynamic and tempo changes, to these ears some aspects of dark and meditative stillness are lacking. The conductor's accounts of the sardonic scherzo and the boisterous finale are controlled, though not lacking in excitement, with the conductor placing clarity and precision to the fore and eschewing the manic approach found on some of his competitors on disc.
Those collecting Noseda’s probing cycle of these works will find this a more than worthy addition to their shelves.
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