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What's your favorite Shostakovich symphony?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Daniel J.S., Dec 14, 2004.

  1. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Well-Known Member

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    I've been going through the cycle during the past few weeks (well, the ones I actually like anyway), and I wondered what everyone's favorite symphony from the all-time great Russian composer (no, it's not Rachmaninoff!) is. These days, I tend to gravitate towards the Tenth, which has a great opening movement, an absoulutely brilliant scherzo, and a wonderful finale (love the D-S-C-H motive in the timpani!). The Fifth is wonderful of course, and I think the opening of the Eighth is one of Shostakovich's great slow movements. Many don't care for the Seventh (the "Leningrad"), but I say nuts to them, it's a very fine work. So is the Fourth. In fact, aside from the first three, which I don't know all that well, the only symphony of his that I genuinely dislike is the Twelfth (although I'm not fond of the Fifteenth either); the first movement is good, the rest can go on the scrap pile. What does everyone else think?
     
  2. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

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    While not a symphony, I thoroughly enjoyed his Execution of Stepan Razin at a recent Montreal Symphony Orchestra concert. It is not often performed, and even less frequently recorded--though I tracked down an excellent recording on Chandos (coupled with the Sixth Symphony, which I also find quite nice). As for Razin, clearly some metal bands have heard it/been inspired by it, especially the lyrics. Not that it sounds like metal, but it does have some similar musical and lyrical themes.
     
  3. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Well-Known Member

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    Who is the conductor for the OSM these days? Did the orchestra suffer in any way after Dutoit left in a huff back in (I think) 1991?

    BTW, Dutoit's recording of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe with the OSM is superb.
     
  4. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Well-Known Member

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    Everytime the Seattle Symphony perorms Shostakovich I go (alas none will be performed this year).

    I like them all but the 8th is my favorite (now if only a hi-rez multi-channel version would come out).
     
  5. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

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    Dutoit left in 2002 and it's been a rotating set of conductors. Kent Nagano is officially the new conductor but prior commitments will keep him mostly away until next spring. I have a friend who subscribes (I only have time for the occasional concert) and he's said that there have been individually great performances despite Dutoit's departure, but the symphony is perhaps suffering from a lack of personality, if that makes any sense. Also, the musicians are in a labour dispute with management and perform in black pants and t-shirts as a sign of protest. One hopes this will be resolved soon (they looked a bit silly next to the guest soloists and choir when I saw them--but they sounded great).
     
  6. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Well-Known Member

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    What exactly were the reasons behind Dutoit's departure? I forget the details, but I do know the parting was acrimonious.

    We seemed to have strayed from Shostakovich haven't we? [​IMG]
     
  7. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

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    At the risk of derailing the thread altogether, I will attempt an answer. I'm not certain of all the details (my wife was temporarily assigned to Ohio and I was out of town for most of 2002/3) but, IIRC, some senior musicians became fed up with Dutoit's supposed "dictatorial" manner. By itself, this was not new, but the dispute went public, which really pissed off Dutoit. Moreover, I believe Dutoit was not very (if at all) sympathetic to the musicians' position in the labour dispute and had publically stated that somewhere--which led to the denouncement of Dutoit as "dictatorial", and so on. Now, my recollection of this is vague as I was only peripherally aware of cultural issues in Montreal during my absence, but, I believe the gist of the problem was something along the lines I describe.

    Dutoit's departure did leave the OSM in a bit of lurch, as all the programmes had his face plastered on them with numerous references to a year-long celebration of his 25th season as principal conductor. I don't know how such a dispute would have been covered by the media in the rest of North America, but in Montreal, it made headlines on the front pages (not just the arts sections) of the major dailies (I perused them from afar via the web) and, I'm told, was a major story on the nightly news for several days. Having grown up near Boston, I have difficulty imagining such a reaction from the Beantown press (not a dis of the Boston Symphony, simply a cultural observation).

    Back on topic: are there any Shostakovich recordings on hi-res that you'd recommend? I will not stop buying CDs, of course, but with my limited discretionary funds I would like to concentrate on hi-res if possible.
     
  8. Hartwig Hanser

    Hartwig Hanser Well-Known Member

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    Larry
    There is a 8th on SACD from Capriccio (search www.sa-cd.net for details; they list every SACD)

    I also tend to think of the 8th as my favorite, but I also like the 1st, 5th, 9th and 15th very much. In contrast I do not get the more thematically oriented like the 3rd or the 11th. There is too much noise in them for my taste ...
     
  9. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

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  10. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Well-Known Member

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    I'd never listened to Shostakovich until I bought the Hamlet soundtrack on Naxos SACD a few months back.

    It sounds pretty good, but you know how soundtrack music is - short bits that don't really get a chance to develop. Here, he was able to write pieces that were up to about 10 minutes each, and he develop several themes throughout. Still, I wasn't knocked out.

    Considering my experience w/ Hamlet, which symphony on SACD would you recommend?

    Thanks and regards,
    Doug
     
  11. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Well-Known Member

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    Call me a damn lowbrow, but I love his fifth symphony (which is the most popular) and, for some reason, I just love my old vinyl pressing of the Ormandy/Philadelphia performance (overmiking be damned!).
     
  12. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Well-Known Member

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    The Fifth Symphony is his most popular for good reason (as is usually the case with noted composers' most popular works). Of course, in terms of technique and imagination, it's a bit of a step back from the Fourth, but musically, it's a stronger work. Those looking to get into Shostakovich should definitely start with the Fifth. There are lots of good recordings out there. The "Penguin" and "Gramophone" guides are your best friend.

    Lots of love for the Eighth in this thread; no real argument there, although I still gravitate towards the Tenth because I'm a sucker for the thrilling and/or monumental climax to a symphony's finale.
     
  13. Seth--L

    Seth--L Well-Known Member

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    4th, 5th and 13th.

    As a whole body of work, I prefer the string quartets.
     
  14. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I like the Fourth and the Thirteenth as well. But the Seventh -- The Leningrad -- well, it was wartime.
     
  15. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure what you meant by that; I'll reiterate that I think it's a terrific work. Some may be put off a bit by the repetition in the first movement, but I think it maintains a high degree of momentum, and becomes incredibly intense. The symphony also features another fine slow movement and finale. It's his longest symphony, but it doesn't feel like it. Believe me, the Twelfth seems longer, and it doesn't even crack forty minutes!

    And I agree, the Thirteenth is superb as well.
     
  16. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Well-Known Member

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    Daniel, the seventh was a wartime propaganda piece, intended to rouse the masses. And it shows.
     
  17. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Well-Known Member

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    I did know that--reportedly when the Nazis invaded Leningrad, Shostakovich immediately went to the army recruiter to join up, but poor health thwarted that plan--but that doesn't change my opinion that it is a muscially safisfying piece (okay, maybe the first movement could stand to be trimmed a bit), and why should it?
     
  18. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Well-Known Member

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    You think that? I find the entire work amazingly bombastic -- as if Shostakovich had been listening to too much Liszt.
     
  19. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Well-Known Member

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    Hardly. When I listen to it, I don't have the same reaction as I do with say, Liszt's Hungaria, which is twice as long as it should be, and even that is a little too long. It is a work that is too often simply loud and crude (which isn't a trait that applies across the board to his works. Something like Orpheus testifies to that), without a sufficient amount of thematic invention and development.
    These qualities are not in evidence in Shostakovich's symphony , where he uses, with great efficacy, differing orchestrations and harmonies to maintain interest and momentum, even when the same theme repeats. Where Liszt used bombast in Hungaria, Shostakovich creates intensity. He exploits the different timbres of the orchestra to a greater degree, justifying the great length of the entire work. People who write it off as mere agitprop do it a great disservice.
     
  20. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Well-Known Member

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    I think the 8th has had an incredible impact on movie soundtrack composers, especially for action movies.

    I see Gergiev has done the 4th Symphony on SACD, hopefully Decca/Philips will get around to releasing the 8th.
     

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