Shostakovich limps along

Shostakovich’s Symphony No.15 is a baffling piece that Mikhail Pletnev and the RNO do little to unlock the meaning of

Composer: Shostakovich
Repertoire: Symphony No.15; Music from ‘Hamlet’
Artists: Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
Rating:  2.5/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: PentaTone Classics PTC 5186 331

Shostakovich’s Symphony No.15, his last, is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. What to make of all those inscrutable quotations? Why does the cavalry-charge march from Rossini’s William Tell Overture keep galloping by? Why those ghostly references to Mahler and Wagner? Unlike some other interpreters, Pletnev smoothes the edges off these objets trouvé, embedding them deep inside the flow. The Rossini reference is empathic enough to imply a sense of chase – Shostakovich’s allegory for his treatment by the Soviets – but I’m not convinced Pletnev does much beyond sound the notes as the symphony progresses. The RNO are disappointingly limp, too.