East-West Turnaround for Shostakovich

East meets West for a cross-cultural exchange.

Composer: Shostakovich
Repertoire: Symphony No.10
Artists: Berlin Philharmonic/Karajan

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Orchestral

Label: DG 477 5909

When first released, this famous 1982 recording was accompanied by the usual barrage of hype – and not without reason. The level of the Berlin Philharmonic’s virtuosity is remarkable (can an orchestra actually be too good?) and Karajan’s firmly purposeful approach to the symphony’s long and magnificent first movement prevents any tendency for the music to sprawl. But surely his brisk main tempo also short-changes the music’s classic Shostakovich blend of depth and space. The performance as a whole resembles an intriguing cross-cultural exchange between west and east. Imagine a beautifully engineered and fitted-out Mercedes driving ever so commandingly across the Russian steppe.