Shostakovich 5 & 9 – RLPO/Vasily Petrenko [Naxos]

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Shostakovich
Symphony No.5 in D minor, Op.47
Symphony No.9 in E flat, Op.70

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko

Recorded 7 & 8 July 2008 in Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2009
CD No: NAXOS 8.572167
Duration: 78 minutes

Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s Shostakovich cycle for Naxos continues with this impressive account of symphonies 5 and 9. The first release, of Symphony 11 (Naxos 8.572082), was somewhat disappointing in being a little tension-less and not helped with editing that inserted into the first movement a take of slightly different ambience, enough to upset the atmosphere that is so crucial to this music.

Petrenko’s accounts of numbers 5 and 9 are on a more involving and illuminating level than for number 11, not least in securing what could be described as ‘concert level’ performances, focussed and cohesive, with excellent playing, the first movement of the Fifth unfolded on a generous but not flaccid scale, interior and exterior elements finely contrasted and orchestral detail lucidly balanced and placed. The scherzo is particularly pugnacious and the slow movement is deeply eloquent, Petrenko exploiting a wide dynamic range.

The problematical finale (problematical because of its potential ambiguity – although we know that the coda is anything but jubilant, unless you want to hear it that way) is particularly gripping in the way Petrenko avoids playing it as a grandstand finish, the slow central section aching with intense regret, the build-up to the closing peroration sustained, the end itself massively unflinching and on a par with Kurt Masur’s stunning account for LPO Live.

The Ninth Symphony (1945), divertissement-like but not without its own darkness, doubts and ciphers, is given a brilliant reading, if not quite finding the buffoonery of the first movement as Leonard Bernstein (Vienna) does, but the energy and point of the music-making is in itself notable, solo contributions full of character. With the slow movement shadowy and restless, then a darting scherzo and the drama that is the dire summonses from low brass and the baleful response from bassoon leads to a skittish account of the finale, once again finely graded to a scintillating conclusion, just a bit manic, which is maybe how it should be.

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