Shostakovich Praises the Human Spirit

A high watermark symphony from Shostakovich.

Composer: Shostakovich
Repertoire: Symphony No.13, ‘Babi Yar’
Artists: Sergei Aleksashkin (bass), St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov
Rating: 3/5

Genre: Vocal
Label: RCA Red Seal 88697 02163 2

This late-period symphony must be one of Shostakovich’s finest achievements. The five movements, all setting poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (the texts and translations of which are outrageously omitted from RCA’s CD booklet), range from a denunciation of Nazi and Soviet anti-semitism to a final, quizzical and moving salute to human goodness. This performance takes a while to rise above accomplished routine, but impresses when it does: there’s a real sense of the music’s power cumulatively taking charge. And Sergei Aleksashkin’s singing is exceptional throughout.