An outstanding recording of Shostakovich

Petrenko guides the RLPO to a world-class performance of Shostakovich's masterful Symphony No 1 and his experimental Third.

Composer: Shostakovich
Repertoire: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 (‘The First of May’)
Artists: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: NAXOS 8.572396

The Music: Completed when Shostakovich was an 18-year-old student at the Leningrad Conservatoire, his First Symphony was an early masterpiece of astonishing brilliance and individuality. The modernist-revolutionary Third (see Gergiev’s recording below) was more a virtuoso experiment.

The Performance: Conductors who really make a difference to how a professional orchestra plays are rarer than they should be. Petrenko these days has the RLPO performing at world-class level: in the First Symphony, besides the rapier-like flair and precision, there’s a reflective streak behind the passionate lyricism that beautifully brings out the music’s Tchaikovsky connection. Petrenko’s way with the Third Symphony tries to make sense of its modernist rampagings in a way that it doesn’t really require; and in the finale’s revolutionary chorus, the heroic RLPO Choir doesn’t manage to sound as hairy-chested as Gergiev’s Russian Mariinsky voices. Still a decent performance, though.

The Verdict: This latest instalment in Petrenko’s Shostakovich cycle with the RLPO more than maintains the superb standard they’ve set already. The quality on offer in the First Symphony is outstanding.

Want More? Previous excellent releases in this series include the Fifth and ninth Symphonies (NAXOS 8.572167) and the formidable, epic-scale eleventh, ‘The year 1905’ (NAXOS 8.572082).