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|Dmitry Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Chicago Symphony Orchestra|
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 7
One of the most thrilling musical experiences of my life was seeing Leonard Bernstein and the Chicago Symphony play Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony live. As Bernstein wrung every last ounce of pathos from the slow mov... more »
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One of the most thrilling musical experiences of my life was seeing Leonard Bernstein and the Chicago Symphony play Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony live. As Bernstein wrung every last ounce of pathos from the slow movement, I found it incredible that anyone could ever have thought this less than great music. The ending was so loud you could hardly even hear the cymbals! Happily, every bit of that experience--including the full dynamic range--has been captured on this recording, along with a terrific First Symphony. This is one of the great ones. --David Hurwitz
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One HECK of a Leningrad
cmk | Oregon | 08/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the performance of Shostakovich's Leningrad that I've been waiting for. Some people have said that this is not one of his finer symphonies. I dare you to listen to this recording and not come away moved. You simply will not hear this music played with more involvement or virtuostic power. The Chicago Symphony simply plays the living HECK out of this music.
The First movement opens brightly and broad. There's a real feeling of setting out on a great and magical journey. At the final variation of the march theme in the first movement, right before the music beings to collapse, the bass drum has never been captured better. If you've got a good sub, prepare for your floor to rattle! The 2nd movement is taken very slowly. This is no moderato. But the slower tempo gives it a somber, almost meditative like quality. His Adagio is the most heartfelt I have ever heard, and most surprising(thank God), completely lacking in that infamous melodrama via massive rubato that came with so many of Bernstein's later recordings. And then the Coda of the finale....as other reviews have mentioned, it is amazing. When I first heard it, I just kinda sat there for a few minutes and didn't do or say anything, totally stupified by what I had just heard. It is so LOUD! This one will have the neighbors going crazy. That bass trombonist is a MONSTER! As to the question whether the symphony ends in real triumph or manufactured triumph, Bernstein's is definately in the real triumph camp.
Bernstein's overall timing is the longest ever recorded, clocking around 84 minutes, about 10 minutes more than average. This is the only recording I know of that requires a second disc to hold it. In particular, the 2nd movement clocks in at nearly 15 minutes, quite a stretch from the usual 11 or so. But, his orchestra is so involved and electrifying, that the broad tempi do not decrease the excitement in the least. Indeed, throughout the entire performance, Bernstein's tempi will only astounish you rather than offend you. Taken as a whole, the interpretation is one of the freshest and most original out there.
While I would not be without some other faster recordings, if you're looking for a single Leningrad, I would recommend this one as a first choice. Don't worry about the price. It's well worth it."
Better Than A Recording Has The Right To Be
Howard G Brown | Port St. Lucie, FL USA | 01/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The only problem here is that Bernstein and the Chicago Symphony outdo even Mravinsky (orchestral precision, recorded sound quality, the conductor's commitment to the music) and convince all who care to listen that the "Leningrad" is one of the few masterpieces of the 20th Century. Which means other conductors and orchestras want to have a go at it -- and fall short of the mark, as they must. More so-so 7ths are not needed while this recording remains available.Toscanini approaches the high voltage here, but the dated sound of the 1942 radio broadcast offers a dim outline compared the technicolor spectacle Bernstein/Chicago offer on these discs."
An exception to the rule.
Kenji Fujishima | 08/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernstein's Shostakovich has always been controversial: witness the plodding perfomance of the Symphony no. 9 in this series. However, he has achieved the unthinkable in the Leningrad. This performance must count as one of the greats of recorded music. The march of the German forces onto Leningrad, and subsequent onslaught, in the first movement is genuinely chilling. Bernstein has managed to make what is regarded as one of Shostakovich's worst symphonies (just ask Bartok) into something truly magic; a must for the Shostakovich and/or Bernstein devotee."