Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 - Gergiev

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 - Gergiev

Mariinsky  MAR0525

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8

Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev

With more experience conducting Shostakovich than any of his contemporaries, Valery Gergiev is one the world's leading authorities on the great Russian's repertoire. Here Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra continue their Shostakovich symphony cycle with the release of the Eighth Symphony.

The Eighth Symphony is imbued with a deep sense of sorrow and fear, widely considered to be one of the composer's finest scores. The Soviet authorities expected a victorious anthem in light of the Nazi retreat, but Shostakovich appeared too affected by the casualties and ruin of the war to produce anything like a celebratory composition.

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DSD recording

Recorded on 15 & 17 June 2011, on 16 May 2012 and on 23 March 2013 in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia, DSD64

Vladimir Ryabenko, engineering & editing

Vladimir Ryabenko, producer

Vladimir Ryabenko and Jonathan Stokes & Neil Hutchinson (Classic Sound Ltd), mastering

Recording software: Merging Technologies Pyramix
Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - October 29, 2013

This is the fifth release in Valery Gergiev's on-going cycle of Shostakovich symphonies with the Mariinsky Orchestra and is arguably his finest performance since Symphonies 1 and 15 were released in 2009 Shostakovich: Symphonies 1 & 15 - Gergiev.

Gergiev's second recording of Shostakovich's other 'war symphony' - the 'Leningrad' that appeared last year Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 - Gergiev was characterised by some controversially slow (some might say sluggish) tempi that certainly imbued the work with a suitably epic quality, but at the expense of forward momentum. No such charge can be levelled at this gripping account of the monumental Symphony No. 8.

Gergiev's tempi for each of the symphony's five movements are expertly conceived. The immense tri-partite opening movement builds quite slowly, but with an inexorable trajectory, and the feeling of uneasy calm before the gradual journey to the movement's shattering climax is palpable. The power of the relentless snare drum, howling horns, piercing woodwind and characteristically baleful Russian brass make the contrast with the disconsolate cor anglais solo and desolate final pages all the more poignant.

Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra again do not pull their punches in either of the aggressive scherzo-like movements that follow. The biting and sardonic playing of the orchestra's wind section in the first of these two short militaristic movements is matched by the terrifyingly relentless ostinato of the strings in the second. In the ensuing lugubrious passacaglia , Gergiev's firm grip of the music's underlying pulse perfectly conveys the music's melancholy desolation, yet he maintains tension throughout its ten minute span and avoids any suggestion of stasis. He even manages to bring a trace of acerbic humour to a finale that, far from celebrating triumph, ends with a coda of profound stillness and enigmatic calm.

This recording is taken from performances given in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre over a period of almost two years – from June2011 to March 2013 - but such is the consistency of Gergiev's conducting, no sense of dislocation is apparent in either performance or recorded sound.
It is unfortunate, however, that the conductor's all too audible groaning is present in a number of passages throughout the symphony – usually when the strings alone are playing. This will irritate some listeners more than others, but be warned.

The 5.0 surround recording has a good spread and depth, but does need to be played at a high volume setting to bring maximum presence to the sound.

Even in a CD market saturated with recommendable recordings of Shostakovich symphonies this performance is more than worthy of attention from prospective purchasers and makes one eager for the rest of this compelling cycle to appear.

Copyright © 2013 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (2)

Comment by Athenaeus - April 30, 2020 (1 of 2)

Some exciting news: In July Warner is releasing Shostakovich No. 8 under the baton of Tugan Sokhiev. It's actually a re-release of an RBCD (i.e. UPC 190295284367) but this time as a hybrid SACD for the Japanese market. What's so exciting about that? The last time Warner Japan released an SACD was in the fall of 2018. I had assumed they had given up on SACDs and I was quite disappointed about that. It seems they're back now. Let's hope we will be seeing more of these recent recordings, as well as some of Warner's classic recordings from the analogue era. (Tower Records, of course, has been and still is releasing some of the great recordings from the Warner catalogue.)

Comment by hiredfox - May 6, 2020 (2 of 2)

It is at the same time sad to note that the Mariinsky label seems to have stopped producing SACD.

I have asked LSO Live to comment but so far they have not responded to my request.