Dmitri Shostakovich CDs
PentaTone Music started the release of recordings of the fifteen symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich in Super Audio CD format.
The first PentaTone CD (PTC 5186 068) contains Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6 performed by the Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.
The First Symphony, composed in 1924 was Shostakovich's
diploma thesis. Nikolai Malko, the conductor of the first performance wrote: 'I have the feeling that I have turned a new page in the history of the Symphony and have discovered a great new composer'.
Shostakovich wrote the Sixth Symphony 15 years later in 1939 after a year long creative pause. It could be viewed as a musical commentary on Stalin purges.
Symphony No. 11 "The Year 1905" of Shostakovich is the second Super Audio CD (PTC 5186 076) in this series.
Mikhail Pletnev conducts the Russian National Orchestra in a performance on February 14th, 2005. The symphony was composed in the years 1956 and 1957. The theme is the revolution of 1905. On the 9th of January 1906 troops,
following the orders of Tsar Nicholas, fired on 100,000 unarmed demonstrating workers, women and children, killing thousands. There followed plundering and unrest. This fateful scenario colours the four movements of this symphony which carry the following programmatic titles: 1. Palace Square, 2. January the Ninth,
3. In Memoriam, 4. The Toscin.
In May 2006 Pentatone released the third CD in the Shostakovich Symphony Series (PentaTone PTC 5186 084). A welcome addition to the various recordings of
Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony, in particular not only because of the fine sound quality which is in Hybrid Multichannel Super Audio, but also because of the quality of
the performance by the Russian National Orchestra conducted by Paavo Berglund.
Shostakovich completed his Symphony No. 8 on September 9, 1943 in only two months' time,
following a short, yet agonisingly dry creative period:
"The Seventh and the Eighth are my 'Requiem'." At the time, his first comments on the new work
were very different, and (as was usual during Stalin's regime, one should add) meaningless:
"This work mirrors my thoughts and feelings following the joyous reports on the first victories
of the Red Army." For sure ... After all, it would be hard to come up with another
20th-century symphony that sounds as inscrutable and sadly fateful as Shostakovich's Eighth.
Following his triumphant Leningrad Symphony, the composer had deeply disappointed
the expectations of the Apparatschik with this work, as a great part of the Eighth is pensive
and melancholy, and does not announce the victory of the Red Army at Stalingrad.
Quite the opposite, instead of producing emotional and enduring symphonic music,
Shostakovich the man not only expresses his deep mourning of the dreadful tragedy of the
Second World War and its countless victims, he also announces in the most deeply pessimistic
tone the individual suffering of the people in the Soviet Union,
who (also before the war) suffered and died under Stalin's reign of terror.
Shostakovich's hope that the authorities would interpret the resignative tone of the work
as a consequence of the German aggression, was rapidly dashed, and thus the Eighth was censured
in 1948, after Shostakovich, Prokofiev and other leading composers had been accused of
"formalistic tendencies". The symphony was banned from the concert podium, and numerous radio
recordings of the work were destroyed.
In the urgency of its individual message, the Symphony No. 8 often exceeds the pain level of
the listener. It functions as absolute music, without a programme being imposed from the
Now there is the fourth CD in this series: Yakov Kreizberg conducting the Russian National Orchestra in Shostakovich's Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9 (PTC 5186 096).
Shostakovich composed his Symphony No. 5 between April 18 and July 20,1937, a remarkably short
period of time. Although he had expanded his Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 to include vocalists, he
returned in his Fifth Symphony to the scoring of the first. He oriented the sound of the
orchestra more towards the late-Romantic expression, and treated the instruments and ensembles
in a more traditional manner.Therefore, outwardly, the composer geared his sound towards the
traditional idiom demanded in the Pravda article “Chaos versus Music”.
Could this be seen as a turn-about by Shostakovich to conform to the required party line?
Apparently it could, as the significanee of the Symphony No. 5 as a composition that conformed
to ideology ran like a red line through the analyses of socialist interpreters: and also in the
West, the work was considered for a long time to conform to the system. Certainly,
Shostakovich's article "My creative answer. The Symphony No. 5”, dating from 1938, was no mean
contributor to this way of thinking. In this article, he described the work as a "practical,
creative answer from a soviet artist to fair criticism" (however at the same time, as we now
know, he simply repeated the thoughts stated in the published opinion but left them as they
were, without comment!). Fortunately, the instrumental and absolute music tells the untold
story. Behind the naked notes, different layers of significance can be distinguished, audible
only to a listener who is prepared to undertake a journey through ambiguity, and who dares to
search critically and with an open mind for the hidden meaning behind the programmatic facade.
In this discipline, Shostakovich had developed a certain mastery, which ensured his survival
in Stalinist Russia.
After the monumental and successful "War Symphony" No. 7 (the Leningrad) and the Symphony
No. 8, both Stalin and the Party expected Shostakovich to write an epic commemorating the
victory over the German invaders, which was won at great cost. An epic with vocal soloists and
choirs, who would appropriately acknowledge the achievements of the "great genius”. The final
symphony of a war trilogy, no less. And the coincidental fact that, in the order of his
contributions to the genre, the next one in line was his Symphony No. 9 should have given the
composer a hint. Well, Shostakovich did not get the hint, and in just one month's time
(July/August 1945) he wrote a work, which could not have been less like a "Soviet Symphony
No. 9" as far as length, concept and content were concerned. On the contrary, the result was
a symphony in the style of Haydn, yet grotesquely altered, full of grimaces and odd gestures.
A nationalistic transport of delight? No way.
The expected hymn of praise to Stalin had been turned into a clever parody of the man. And
sure enough, Shostakovich was once again caught up in the grip of Stalin's terror: he was
accused among other things of "twisting the form”, which was to result in his being ostracized
in 1948 for the second time.
The 100th birthyear of Dmitri Shostakovich in 2006 made Brilliant Classics to release
the Shostakovich Edition: a set with 27 CDs.
This CD-set includes
performances of the most important works of Shostakovich: his
- 15 Symphonies, performed by the WDR SO directed by Rudolf Barshai; performances which received excellent reviews
- 5 Chamber Symphonies: opus 49A (first CD-release), opus 73A, opus 83A, opus 110A and opus 118A
- 15 String Quartets, performed by the Rubio Quartet; performances which received positive reviews as well
- 6 Concertos: 2 Piano Concertos (with Cristina Ortiz), 2 Violin Concertos (with David Oistrakh) and 2 Cello Concertos (with Alexander Ivashkin)
- Chamber Music: Piano Quintet, Violin Sonata, Viola Sonata, Cello Sonata, 2 Piano Sonatas and Piano Trio (see: reviews)
- 2 Jazz Suites (see: reviews)
- 2 Overtures
- Ballet Suites (see: reviews)
- Film Music
A booklet of 88 pages with details and a DVD with exclusive interviews with Rudolf Barshai and Bernd Feuchtner complete this fine set.
Avie Records issued an interesting 2 CD-set
with recordings of Dmitri Shostakovich's opera "The Gamblers" and Fleishman's opera
"Rothschild's Violin", completed and orchestrated by Dmitri Shostakovich.
Like many Russians, Shostakovich had a reckless streak, and was fond of gambling in his youth. And like Pushkin (who gambled away his poems),
Tolstoy (who staked his ancestral home and saw it removed brick by brick), and Dostoyevsky (who pawned even his clothes to fuel his roulette habit),
Shostakovich was not very good at it. He invariably lost - as he confessed to his friend Isaak Glikman soon after beginning his new opera.
The play "The Gamblers" is composed of one act, contaning 25 scenes. The landowner and card sharp Ikharyov arrives in a provincial town
with his servant Gavryushka and takes a room in the inn, planning on making some money.
He wastes no time in obtaining information from the inn's servant Alexey about the gambling habits of the other guests,
whom he hopes to swindle. They in turn extract information from Gavryushka about Ikharyov, including the fact that he has just won 80,000 roubles.
They all sit down to play cards. When it becomes clear to the other guests that Ikharyov is a card sharp like themselves, they decide it would be
in their best interests to collaborate and so they drink a toast. Shostakovich ends his opera in the middle of scene 8, just before Ikharyov introduces
his new friends to "Adelaida Ivanovna", the name he has given to his trusted pack of marked cards.
Fleishman started working on Rothschild's Violin, while he was a student of Shostakovich. It is based on the story by Anton Chekhov. Fleishman had not yet completed the opera
when he joined the army. A few months later he was killed in the suburbs of Leningrad at the age of 28. His wife Ludmila brought the unfinished score to the Leningrad Composers' Union, where it remained until 1943.
Shostakovich, having been evacuated to Kuibishev, requested to send him the unfinished score. He completed and orchestrated the opera in 1944.
Northern Flowers issued an unique CD with all Shostakovich's works for two pianos: the
Concertino opus 94,
the Suite for two pianos opus 6, the Tarantella and the Merry March, a seldom performed piano piece. All of these works were created to be performed by the composer and one of his relatives. Shostakovich wrote the
Concertino and the Tarantella to perform it with his son Maxim who studied piano at Moscow's Central School of Music.
Merry March was written to be performed by the composer with his daughter Galina in 1949. The Suite dedicated to his father who had died was written very quickly by the sixteen-year old Shostakovich.
He wanted to perform it with his sister Mary who studied at the Petrograd Conservatory.
Furthermore this CD contains some fine works for piano solo: Three Fantastic Dances opus 5, the Polka from The Age of Gold and Piano Sonata No. 2 opus 61.
The violinist and composer Albert Markov made an arrangement for violin, viola, piano and chamber orchestra
of four preludes of Dmitri Shostakovich's Twenty-Four Preludes for piano opus 34. He recorded these four preludes with his son Alexander and the Rondo Chamber Players on the CD RMS 2238.
Besides these Four Preludes this CD
contains works by De Sarasate (Navarra opus 33), Mozart (Sinfonia Concertante KV 320), Wieniawski (Etude No. 1 opus 18) and Godard (Two Duettini: Abandon & Serenade).
Albert Markov studied at Kharkov and Moscow conservatories under Lechinsky and Yankelevich. He immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1975 and made his sensational debut with the Houston Symphony in May 1976.
His recent works are the Violin Concertos, Formosa Suite for Violin and Orchestra; both recorded with the Russian National Orchestra (Sunrise 8532).
In August 2006 Muza Rubackyte's performance of Shostakovich's
24 Preludes and Fugues opus 87
have been recorded at the Hall of LNF in Vilnius, Lithuania.
In July 1950, Shostakovich found himself in Leipzig imbibing musical impressions from the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the death of
Johann Sebastian Bach and serving on the jury for the 1st International Bach competition. Among the contestants was Tatiana Nikolayeva from Moscow. She won the first prize. Shostakovich started to compose some preludes and fugues,
invited Nikolayeva to his home and played for her the preludes and fugues he had composed. Initially it was not his intention to create a cycle. In addition to the invigorating example of Bach, Shostakovich attributed his renewed
attention to the fugue in 1950 as a "technical exercise with the aim of perfecting mastery in the polyphonic genre".
For the lovers of Shostakovich's Song Cycles MSR Classics issued a double-CD with his Five Romances after Dolmatovsky opus 98 and his Suite after Michelangelo
Buonarroti opus 145. These compositions are performed by Odekhiren Amaize (bass-baritone) and David Korevaar (piano). Furthermore this 2 CD-set contains Brahms' Four Serious Songs opus 121 Nos. 1-4 and Ibert's Chansons
du Don Quichotte.
Coviello Classics released an interesting CD with songs for baritone and piano,
titled "World Poetry in Russian Music". Shostakovich's Suite to Words by Michelangelo Buonarotti opus 145
is performed by the baritone Frieder Anders and Stella Goldberg (piano). DSCH's opus 145 is combined with
four of Dmitri Kabalevsky's Ten Shakespeare Sonnets opus 52, composed between 1953 and 1955, and Valery Gavrilin's Four Heine Songs
(German Book No. 2). The accompanying booklet contains the texts of these songs in English and in German.
Arco DIVA issued some interesting CDs with compositions of Shostakovich.
Banu Sözüar performs Shostakovich's Twenty-Four Preludes for piano opus 34
(Arco Diva UP 0075-2, combined with Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Corelli opus 42).
She was born in Istanbul, graduated from the Istanbul State Conservatory and studied at the
Hochschule fur Musik in Vienna. She made her debut at the age of 15 and performed at major
International Music Festivals. Banu Sözüar made several LP and CD recordings.
The ArteMiss Piano Trio performs both Piano Trios of Shostakovich No. 1 opus 8 and No. 2 in E minor
opus 67, combined with the Seven Songs after Alexander Blok opus 127 (Arco Diva UP 0069-2).
The ArteMiss Piano Trio was founded in 1995 at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts.
The Trio devotes much of its time to performances of contemporary music. Alzbeta Polackova is the soprano in opus 127. At the moment she is appearing in opera
roles at the Prague National Theatre.
In relation to Shostakovich's 100th Birthday the
complete Shostakovich Symphonies
in a CD-set of 11 CDs is offered for Euro 20 (for the Netherlands and Belgium). The recordings are made between 1992 and 1998 and the performers are
the WDR Symphony Orchestra of Germany conducted by Rudolf Barshai. This orchestra was founded in 1947 in the northwest German broadcast
at that time and belongs today to the West German broadcast.
It is not only the ‘house orchestra’ of the WDR for radio and television productions,
but presents itself also with numerous concerts in the Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall
and in the whole transmission area. In his review Paul Serotsky wrote: "It’s one of those few, I might say definitive, complete sets that everyone should have on the shelf."
Northern Flowers issued some interesting CDs with recordings from the St. Petersburg Musical
Archives. A very particular CD is a performance by Mikhail Lukonin (baritone) and Yuri Serov (piano).
This CD contains an unusual repertoire with Shostakovich'Greek Songs, Spanish Songs, Four Romances to
words by Pushkin and some songs of Shostakovich (Fool's Songs from King Lear, The Dawn is Rising,
The Counter-Plan Song and We Had Kisses.
Another Northern Flowers CD is dedicated to the music for theatre, composed by Shostakovich.
This CD contains music to Hamlet opus 32A, music to the Human Comedy opus 37A and music to King Lear opus 58A,
performed by St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra, directed by Eduard Serov.
The Seven Romances to Poems of Alexander Blok marked a creative rejunetion for Dmitri Shostakovich.
Composed in hospital in 1967 as Shostakovich recovered from a serious heart attack,
these songs were his first significant composition following a period of creative stagnation. In 2004 the Arco Voce Chamber Ensemble
recorded this special work. Furthermore this CD contains works of Leonarda, Handel, Bach, Von Bingen and Brahms.
Brilliant Classics issued a 3-CD-set with a fine collection of Shostakovich's Chamber Music: his Piano Quintet opus 57, Piano Trio No. 2 opus 67,
Violin Sonata opus 134, Viola Sonata opus 147, Cello Sonata opus 40 and both Piano Sonatas No. 1 opus 12 and No. 2 opus 61. The recordings are from the 90s.
Among the performers: Isabele van Keulen (violin/viola), Ronald Brautigam (piano), Colin Stone (piano). This 3 CD-set is part of the Shostakovich Edition: a set with 27 CDs, described above.
The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant" issued in cooperation with EMI Classics an extra ordinary 10 CD-set with all fifteen Symphonies of
Dmitri Shostakovich. In these performances
the great conductor Mariss Jansons conducts several famous orchestras as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra,
Berliner Philharmoniker, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
Mariss Jansons Shostakovich personally. Mariss' father Arvid Jansons was the assistent-conductor
of the Leningrad Philharmonic orchestra, with Evgeny Mravinsky as the principal conductor. Many Symphonies of Shostakovich were premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Evgeny Mravinsky.
The symphonies show a chronicle of the cultural and political developments in the Soviet Union in the period from 1926 until 1972.
Here is the complete list of the performances on these discs (with the years of recording):
Berlin PO: No. 1 (1994)
Bayern Rundfunk SO: No. 2 (2004-2005); No. 3 (2005); No. 4 (2004); No. 12 (2004); No. 13 (2005); No. 14 (2005)
Wiener PO: No. 5 (1997)
Oslo PO: No. 6 (1991); No. 9 (1991)
St. Petersburg (Leningrad) PO: No. 7 (1988)
Pittsburgh SO: No. 8 (2001)
Philadelphia Orchestra: No. 10 (1994); No. 11 (1996)
London PO: No. 15 (1997)
Fillers are pieces from "The Gadfly" (London PO), Jazz Suites Nos. 1 & 2 and Tahiti Trot opus 16 (Philadelphia PO). This CD-set contains performers which have never been issued before.
Recently Fuga Libera issued a CD (FUG 517) with Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Sonata
No. 2 opus 61 and his Twenty-Four Preludes for piano opus 34,
performed by Plamena Mangova and recorded in April 2006. Shostakovich's Second Piano Sonata is a masterpiece in the 20th century piano repertory. Why it is not played more often?
Probably because its very great difficulty is not sufficiently rewarding in concert; the slow movement is not especially singable, the final does not end with a brilliant peroration:
no, Shostakovich did not have the public in mind when he wrote it, even though it was he who gave the fist performance on 6 June 1943. Yet what a geat work, with its Beethovenian sweep,
its absence of grandiloquence, its refusal to deviate from the essentials!
The Twenty-Four Preludes from 1933 are first of all an ode to modern tonality. This is as much a homage to Chopin as an act of faith in a future that would bind tradition to innovation.
The cycle presents a network of quotations, from Rimsky-Korsakov's Golden Cockerel to the traditional and Russian miltary repertoires.
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