Author Topic: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise  (Read 189787 times)

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Offline Daverz

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1520 on: January 29, 2020, 01:34:51 PM »
The latest Kondrashin transfers seem to have come up really well.  The ones I've heard so far anyway, via Spotify which has the 11-CD box:



Comparing Stepan Razin with my own needledrop (which is pretty damn good by the way) the sound from this box set is audibly and measurably improved - whilst still of course being 'of its time'.  I also listened to the Kondrashin Symphony 11 recently - that is a bit fierce-sounding but it suits the music and this rather hectic performance I suppose. At least you can hear all the music without forever fiddling with the volume control - which is a real problem in most modern recordings of this symphony - Petrenko being a typical example - the dynamic range is far too wide for comfortable home listening, a particular difficulty with this symphony since the first half-hour is almost unremitting pp.

I don't know which if any of the individual Kondrashin discs are the same transfer as that (too expensive) box set.

Ah, it's on Qobuz now.  I don't remember seeing it there before.

Here's the other 13 with Gromadsky:



https://open.qobuz.com/album/0888002872999 (if it's on Qobuz, it's probably on spotify).

Another interesting dark-horse cycle is the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra:



https://open.qobuz.com/album/tgsy0060w7v5b

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1521 on: January 30, 2020, 03:57:29 AM »
Yes I have enjoyed several of the performances from that Sladkovsky cycle, over the last year or so.  Completely idiomatic, and interesting to experience the 'modern Melodiya' sound which suits the music so well.

In general though I think that DSCH's symphonic output is so uneven that cycles are not the way to go - however much of a bargain (eg Barshai) there is about 50% of the material I would just never listen to.  Instead I prefer:
Symphony 1: Ormandy, Caetani or Wigglesworth
Symphony 5: Previn 1st recording (RCA)
Symphony 6: Petrenko, or Wigglesworth
Symphony 8: Previn 1st recording (EMI), or Caetani
Symphony 9: Caetani, or Kondrashin
Symphony 10: Svetlanov
Symphony 11: De Priest 1st recording (Helsinki PO, Delos)
Symphony 15: Sanderling - or anyone really, for this most marvelous swansong

Offline relm1

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1522 on: January 30, 2020, 06:37:00 AM »
Yes I have enjoyed several of the performances from that Sladkovsky cycle, over the last year or so.  Completely idiomatic, and interesting to experience the 'modern Melodiya' sound which suits the music so well.

In general though I think that DSCH's symphonic output is so uneven that cycles are not the way to go - however much of a bargain (eg Barshai) there is about 50% of the material I would just never listen to.  Instead I prefer:
Symphony 1: Ormandy, Caetani or Wigglesworth
Symphony 5: Previn 1st recording (RCA)
Symphony 6: Petrenko, or Wigglesworth
Symphony 8: Previn 1st recording (EMI), or Caetani
Symphony 9: Caetani, or Kondrashin
Symphony 10: Svetlanov
Symphony 11: De Priest 1st recording (Helsinki PO, Delos)
Symphony 15: Sanderling - or anyone really, for this most marvelous swansong

Fascinating.  I wouldn't pick any of your choices but yet they all make sense too.  I guess that means the cycles are extremely well represented when my anything from my top five choices are still excellent.

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1523 on: January 30, 2020, 09:10:09 AM »
Yes I have enjoyed several of the performances from that Sladkovsky cycle, over the last year or so.  Completely idiomatic, and interesting to experience the 'modern Melodiya' sound which suits the music so well.

In general though I think that DSCH's symphonic output is so uneven that cycles are not the way to go - however much of a bargain (eg Barshai) there is about 50% of the material I would just never listen to.  Instead I prefer:
Symphony 1: Ormandy, Caetani or Wigglesworth
Symphony 5: Previn 1st recording (RCA)
Symphony 6: Petrenko, or Wigglesworth
Symphony 8: Previn 1st recording (EMI), or Caetani
Symphony 9: Caetani, or Kondrashin
Symphony 10: Svetlanov
Symphony 11: De Priest 1st recording (Helsinki PO, Delos)
Symphony 15: Sanderling - or anyone really, for this most marvelous swansong

In complete agreement with you over the value/quality of the Sladkovsky cycle - and his survey of all 6 concerti with 6 different young players is quite excellent too.  I don't buy into the unevenness of the DSCH cycle as a premise.  That assumes all symphonies written by one composer should have a degree of sameness about them.  I completely accept that you happen not to enjoy quite a few of the symphonies but that is surely more down to personal taste rather than objective assessments.  I enjoy ALL of the symphonies - I've said on this forum before that for me DSCH more than any other composer I can think of wrote music that was a direct reflection of the time and place in which he lived and the music is consequently directly linked to that.  That doesn't make it better or worse - simply his response to the there and then.

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1524 on: January 30, 2020, 10:32:35 AM »
Rostropovich never seems to get mentioned, but I live all that I've heard of it. Most recently listened to #15.

Offline Brian

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1525 on: January 30, 2020, 12:03:40 PM »
Chandos appears to be starting a new cycle with John Storgards and the BBC Philharmonic. Starting with #11 in March. Not sure those are the artists I would choose for a new cycle, but...okay.

Offline Daverz

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1526 on: January 30, 2020, 12:36:12 PM »
Rostropovich never seems to get mentioned, but I live all that I've heard of it. Most recently listened to #15.

I admit I bought the Rostropovich box to get the 14th with Vishnevskaya and Reshetin.

Offline Irons

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1527 on: January 31, 2020, 12:59:39 AM »
I admit I bought the Rostropovich box to get the 14th with Vishnevskaya and Reshetin.

A very special performance and recording too.

You must have a very good opinion of yourself to write a symphony - John Ireland.

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1528 on: January 31, 2020, 01:54:05 AM »
Chandos appears to be starting a new cycle with John Storgards and the BBC Philharmonic. Starting with #11 in March. Not sure those are the artists I would choose for a new cycle, but...okay.

That's the "one-more-wafer-thin-mint" of cycles.  No matter how good it is, I can't justify the expense of this.  But I bet they find some USP of digging out "never before recorded" fragments of things you've never known you'd missed... so temptation will start whispering......!

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1529 on: January 31, 2020, 07:36:59 AM »
That's the "one-more-wafer-thin-mint" of cycles.  No matter how good it is, I can't justify the expense of this.  But I bet they find some USP of digging out "never before recorded" fragments of things you've never known you'd missed... so temptation will start whispering......!

There is no justification: we enjoy a glut of good cycles.  They see sales opportunities, is all.
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Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1530 on: January 31, 2020, 08:17:21 AM »
Rostropovich never seems to get mentioned, but I live all that I've heard of it. Most recently listened to #15.

Along with Rozhdesvensky's, Slava's is my favorite cycle. I especially love his first five and last five. His Sixth was the only disappointment.

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he was as f*cked-up as you are."
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1531 on: January 31, 2020, 01:01:03 PM »
Yes I have enjoyed several of the performances from that Sladkovsky cycle, over the last year or so.  Completely idiomatic, and interesting to experience the 'modern Melodiya' sound which suits the music so well.

In general though I think that DSCH's symphonic output is so uneven that cycles are not the way to go - however much of a bargain (eg Barshai) there is about 50% of the material I would just never listen to.  Instead I prefer:
Symphony 1: Ormandy, Caetani or Wigglesworth
Symphony 5: Previn 1st recording (RCA)
Symphony 6: Petrenko, or Wigglesworth
Symphony 8: Previn 1st recording (EMI), or Caetani
Symphony 9: Caetani, or Kondrashin
Symphony 10: Svetlanov
Symphony 11: De Priest 1st recording (Helsinki PO, Delos)
Symphony 15: Sanderling - or anyone really, for this most marvelous swansong

I also think highly of that Previn 5th, but I'm a sucker for most new recordings of the work.  I think the last one was Urbanski.

For 1, I'd also single out Martinon.

For 8, everyone should at least hear the Mravinsky that was on Philips, though get a later issue that fixed the pitch problems:

https://altocd.com/product/alc1150

If you mean the 1966 Svetlanov 10th, I'm all in.  That is available for download as FLAC from Qobuz (and MP3 from various places if that's your thing.)

https://open.qobuz.com/album/0888003493483

Kondrashin also recorded 9 with the Concertgebouw.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1532 on: February 01, 2020, 05:26:11 AM »
I'll look out that Mravinsky 8th (well, found it cheaper on Amazon and ordered it)



I've always admired the Leningrad PO, saw them live in the early '70s and they were drilled to perfection even then, after Mravinsky's time.  Thrilling to watch.  I note the review remarks on how fast Mravinsky drives this music along, but its notable just comparing timings that Caetani (also live) is actually significantly quicker in every movement and a whole 4m30 quicker than Mravinsky in the opening Adagio. 
I also have Previn's second recording of the 8th (on DG) following some mentions of it in the composer thread, but this is just not a contender at all - completely lacking in any kind of energy, Shostakovich played like Delius - almost shocking really it so much misses the mark.
My first encounter with the 8th was the Kondrashin recording which was itself a very good one (and the only practical option for some years), but then when the Previn was released on EMI it seemed to me to be an improvement in every way.  But a lot of that was just the newer recording with cleaner climaxes, and if the Kondrashin has been remastered it might be a closer call.

I saw Sanderling conduct the 15th - during his tenure as conductor of the BBC Phil - and at the finish as the music winds down, there was a sense of everyone in the audience collectively holding their breath - wonderful moment.

Straying well out of my comfort zome I listened to the 13th yesterday (the Caetani recording) and did actually find a lot to enjoy.  This particular recording is a sonic spectacular by the way.  If I had to comit to a cycle (which as stated above, I wouldn't want to) it would be Caetani for me.  Though with the health warning that he is unremittingly speedy.



Even further out of my comfort zone I'll look out that Rostropovich 14th with his good lady wife taking top billing - Britten's War Requiem made me a huge fan of Vishnevskaya.  But I do find any music that depends on vocal content (solo vocal I mean, not choral) very challenging.  That's why I have avoided the 13th and 14th.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2020, 05:30:01 AM by aukhawk »

Offline Leo K.

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1533 on: October 28, 2020, 10:30:32 AM »
I've been listening through Shostakovich's symphonies and now I'm up to 12.

Fascinating listening and I'm not quite sure if I like the symphonies although there are moments that grab me immensely in their beauty and intensity. It seems there are too many first movements that are slowish and therefore not immediately arresting - perhaps that is the expression by Shostakovich.

Maybe someone can help me understand these works (beyond the interesting background politically, unless that cannot separated from these works). I like them but then again I don't. Maybe I'm not hearing what makes them so great. I want to like them!

Take the 5th Symphony, which I was expecting something more grand in tone (just based on what I've read over the years), but interestingly found this is mostly a quiet lyrical symphony and there is something missing by the time we reach the ending. (Probably my ignorance yet!)

I've been going through the Petrenko cycle mostly, with the Bernstein conducted 5th and others, Sanderling Sr. and Jr., Jansons and Haitink in the mix.

Something keeps me coming back so I'll keep on listening.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2020, 10:32:48 AM by Leo K. »

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1534 on: October 28, 2020, 10:40:40 AM »
I've been listening through Shostakovich's symphonies and now I'm up to 12.

Fascinating listening and I'm not quite sure if I like the symphonies although there are moments that grab me immensely in their beauty and intensity. It seems there are too many first movements that are slowish and therefore not immediately arresting - perhaps that is the expression by Shostakovich.

Shostakovich spoke wrily of his doubtful relationship with Sonata-Allegro first mvts. 8)
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Offline Leo K.

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1535 on: October 28, 2020, 11:21:23 AM »
Shostakovich spoke wrily of his doubtful relationship with Sonata-Allegro first mvts. 8)

Yeah how interesting! Understandable that perhaps that was a tiring trope of first movement sonatas he wanted to explore out of.

Offline relm1

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1536 on: October 28, 2020, 04:21:24 PM »
It seems there are too many first movements that are slowish and therefore not immediately arresting - perhaps that is the expression by Shostakovich.

It's actually an interesting point.  Traversing his symphonies, the one with the fast first movement is considered one of the less popular ones...No. 12.  I've come to think of Shostakovich as a monumental composer where there is something worth exploring to better understand the artist through his various incarnations regardless if I even like it (and I've never heard any Shostakovich I dislike).  There is the doom and gloom version of the composer, but also the traditional version, but there is the sarcasm/wry wit version, the waltz version, the patriotic version, the neo-classical version, the enfant terrible version, etc., and all are good but different.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1537 on: October 29, 2020, 01:21:32 AM »
I don't know all these pieces very well (have heard them all but only a few somewhat frequently and thoroughly) but I think Shostakovich has several comparably traditional sonata first movements in his string quartets, although the tempo is often rather moderate than fast. (He has probably more moderato/allegretto or some such indications than any other composer). His quartets are in a sense both more classicist and more modern than the symphonies, though ;)
And of course there have been slowish sonata form first movements of symphonies already in Bruckner and Mahler.
I'd say that 2,3, 11-14 are too different/programmatic from traditional symphonies to expect something close to their forms, maybe also 7. 1,5, 9 and 15 seem close enough to traditional forms and I tend to find 8 and 10 also not so far from it that someone like Mahler would not have easily accepted them as symphonies. 6 seems a conscious departure and I don't know 4 well enough. In any case by the 1930s there had been many symphonies departing somewhat from older models, the most common alternative probably being in one movement with sections that were analogues to the old 3-5movements, like Schoenberg 's chamber symphony and Sibelius' 7th.
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Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1538 on: October 29, 2020, 04:34:24 AM »
Maybe someone can help me understand these works (beyond the interesting background politically, unless that cannot separated from these works). I like them but then again I don't. Maybe I'm not hearing what makes them so great. I want to like them!

I think the symphony cycle is quite uneven.  Or maybe it's that, as suggested upthread, he has so many facets that an individual listener is likely to relate to some aspects more than others.  I like to think that there's a lot of irony (veiled or otherwise) in his music but I know some people would say that this interpretation is over-thinking with hindsight.

I really like nos. 1, 11 and 15, as much as any orchestral music I know.  And I'd put the 1st Violin Concerto and 1st Cello Concerto in that bracket too.
I enjoy 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10, and the 2nd Cello Concerto, but at a lower plane of appreciation, and the other symphonies and concertos don't really register with me at all.

I do also rate among my favourite music his Piano Trio No.2, his Quartet No.8 and especially his Preludes & Fugues Op.87 for piano.

Offline Leo K.

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Re: Shostakovich Symphonies, Cycles & Otherwise
« Reply #1539 on: October 29, 2020, 06:15:14 AM »
It's actually an interesting point.  Traversing his symphonies, the one with the fast first movement is considered one of the less popular ones...No. 12.  I've come to think of Shostakovich as a monumental composer where there is something worth exploring to better understand the artist through his various incarnations regardless if I even like it (and I've never heard any Shostakovich I dislike).  There is the doom and gloom version of the composer, but also the traditional version, but there is the sarcasm/wry wit version, the waltz version, the patriotic version, the neo-classical version, the enfant terrible version, etc., and all are good but different.

I don't know all these pieces very well (have heard them all but only a few somewhat frequently and thoroughly) but I think Shostakovich has several comparably traditional sonata first movements in his string quartets, although the tempo is often rather moderate than fast. (He has probably more moderato/allegretto or some such indications than any other composer). His quartets are in a sense both more classicist and more modern than the symphonies, though ;)
And of course there have been slowish sonata form first movements of symphonies already in Bruckner and Mahler.
I'd say that 2,3, 11-14 are too different/programmatic from traditional symphonies to expect something close to their forms, maybe also 7. 1,5, 9 and 15 seem close enough to traditional forms and I tend to find 8 and 10 also not so far from it that someone like Mahler would not have easily accepted them as symphonies. 6 seems a conscious departure and I don't know 4 well enough. In any case by the 1930s there had been many symphonies departing somewhat from older models, the most common alternative probably being in one movement with sections that were analogues to the old 3-5movements, like Schoenberg 's chamber symphony and Sibelius' 7th.

I think the symphony cycle is quite uneven.  Or maybe it's that, as suggested upthread, he has so many facets that an individual listener is likely to relate to some aspects more than others.  I like to think that there's a lot of irony (veiled or otherwise) in his music but I know some people would say that this interpretation is over-thinking with hindsight.

I really like nos. 1, 11 and 15, as much as any orchestral music I know.  And I'd put the 1st Violin Concerto and 1st Cello Concerto in that bracket too.
I enjoy 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10, and the 2nd Cello Concerto, but at a lower plane of appreciation, and the other symphonies and concertos don't really register with me at all.

I do also rate among my favourite music his Piano Trio No.2, his Quartet No.8 and especially his Preludes & Fugues Op.87 for piano.

These are good thoughts to contemplate and helps me immensely.

I've recently listened to his String Quartet No.3, Cello Concerto No.1 and his Piano Concerto No.1 and these are all so different I was very surprised and couldn't stop thinking about it!

I like the satire, irony and witticism in so many moments and his style is making me reassess Mahler (one of my all time favorite music) in a new light. The Rondo in Mahler's 9 for example, which I never really liked, is now likeable after hearing Shostakovich.

Seeing that a lot of his symphonies are Mahlerian (in form and structure) and Brucknerian (adagio interiority) in scope (to some extent), this helps me contextually grasp Shostakovich better too.