Shostakovich: Symphonies 1 & 6 - Jurowski
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186068
Classical - Orchestral
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 Op. 10, Symphony No. 6 Op. 54
Russian National Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)
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Review by Graham Williams - April 2, 2006
In sonic terms alone I would rate this as possibly the finest PentaTone SACD that I have heard. The orchestra is clearly laid out in front of the listener; violins arranged antiphonally (always a good point), basses on the left percussion on the right, brass and timpani at the rear. The soundstage is almost holographic in its fullness and solidity. Throughout, the recorded sound has both warmth and clarity as well as stunning impact in the climaxes. Vladimir Jurowski’s performances of these two symphonies undoubtedly match the quality of the recordings. He knows exactly what he wants and obtains truly outstanding results from his orchestra.
The first of Shostakovich’s symphonies was completed before he reached his 19th birthday and was instantly recognized as a remarkable work.
Jurowski’s performance is less acerbic than many on disc, and even in the first movement moves us closer to the world of Tchaikovsky than that of Stravinsky’s Petrushka. His handling of the wistful waltz, which brings that work to mind, is delightful while the main march theme is forceful and determined.
The second movement is deftly played, with much characterful woodwind, and it is good to hear the piano so well balanced in the sound picture instead of either being buried in the orchestral texture or appearing like the soloist in a concerto. The trio section of this movement is taken more slowly than usual, but this does add to a sense of mystery before the return of the scherzo.
The slow movement, that opens with a poignant and beautifully phrased oboe solo, is given the full romantic treatment by the rich string playing while the imposing side-drum roll that leads into the finale certainly jolts one out of the relaxed atmosphere that has been created.
The rapidly changing moods of this finale are well differentiated by Jurowski and the all-important timpani solo, that precedes the final build-up, is duly imposing, before the movement hurtles headlong to its conclusion.
The sixth symphony is one of Shostakovich’s most enigmatic creations. He wrote it between April and October 1939 and its unusual three-movement form has long puzzled many commentators. The opening slow movement lasts longer than the other two combined and seems to bear no relation to them.
Jurowski’s handling of the dark rivers of the opening movement makes it seem less austere and glacial than in some other hands. It is played with a rapt intensity and although quite spacious (19.50) always maintains a forward pulse. Throughout one’s attention is drawn to the excellent playing of the RNO, for example the desolate cor anglais and flute solos that follow the first climax and the beautifully managed consoling passage for horns at 15.27.
The brief scherzo that follows is taken at a very fast speed with agile woodwind, blazing brass and crisp percussion, and the way Jurowski unleashes the central section with such tremendous power is truly thrilling.
The circus-like finale is also played with much style and panache and Jurowski even manages to make the coda sound less vulgar than in many other versions.
As I have made clear this is a superb SACD and I hope that PentaTone can persuade Jurowski to undertake more Shostakovich recordings with this orchestra.
Copyright © 2006 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net
Review by John Broggio - July 6, 2006
As with their earlier Shostakovich recording, Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11 - Pletnev, Pentatone have a treasure of a disc. The constants in the series, the recording team & the Russian National Orchestra, manage to excel themselves, even by comparison to their earlier release - thanks I'm sure, in no small part, to it being a studio recording.
Opening with the relatively immature Symphony No.1, Jurowski & the RNO do Shostakovich the honour of treating this work as comparable in stature to the companion Symphony No.6; at no time is an attempt made to elevate the work beyond what is present in the score which is welcome. This "purist" approach, if you will, just allows the voice of the composer to be heard without much interference. The tempi are all well chosen and the playing is beyond criticism. Where others have found the tension to slip, I just found this to be a reflection of the music itself & was glad for it not to be compensated.
Following this, is the Symphony No.6, a work that is much more taut in structure - albeit a strange combination & balance in 3 movements that starts with a massive & dark slow movement followed by comparatively trite fast movements. For me, Jurowski is a perfect conductor for this "odd" work. In no way does he indulge himself but the textures of the first movement are full and rich - not lean as some older & classic performances also eminating from Russia have been. All the lines in the musical argument are made clear & cleanly by the RNO who really demonstrate a superb technique and tone. This reputation is then further enhanced by some very virtuostic playing of a quicker kind in the final two movements. In particular, the second movement has some wonderful moments & I would signal out the flashing harps in the first minute or so. Whilst the finale could arguably have more direction from Jurowski, there is no shortage of energy & brilliance from the RNO. This is not to suggest that the surface is not scratched musically just that it will take a few listens to get away from the breathtaking playing on display.
The recording is much finer than that accorded to the first, concert recording, release and is the characteristic PentaTone house sound - beautifully clear, yet rich and sensationally well balanced.
This cycle with PentaTone and the Russian National Orchestra is promising to become a truly magnificent set (although a little expensive) and I very much look forward to future releases.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net