Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra|
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 / Symphony No. 6 [The Mravinsky Collection]
A prime candidate for Mravinsky's best Shostakovich 5th
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 04/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"(Note: The CD pictured here is the 1965 performance reviewed below.)
Mravinsky's recorded legacy is one of the most confused that anyone could hope to untangle. Dates and performances are often jumbled or not provided at all; numerous duplications are in circulation; Soviet originals get licensed to a hodgepodge of Western import labels. But since he is so closely identified with the Shostakovich Fifth, I thought it worthwhile to describe the four versions I know personally.
Melodiya/BMG (April, 1954) -- This performance, the only one done in the studio that I own, was included in the second box set of Mravinsky recordings licensed by Melodiya to RCA/BMG. The sound is Soviet-era mono, but not of the worst sort. The bass isn't overly tubby, and the highs don't shriek. But the performance, surprisingly, is the tamest of the four at hand. There's a certain "official" quality that leads to a lack of intensity. Note that Mravinsky's trademark presto to begin the finale (later adopted by Leonard Bernstein in his famous live MY Phil. account from 1959) hasn't appeared yet. The tempo is Allegro non troppo, as indicated by the score.
Russian Disc (Nov. 1965) -- By comparison with his studio recording, this concert broadcast is more fiery and intense. The sound is a bit shrill and off-putting in the highs, yet the microphone placement takes us right inside the orchestra, adding to the impact of the performance. For a long time I was fooled into thinking that this was in stereo due to the wide soundstage, but on closer examinaiton it's defnitely mono. The racing start to the finale hasn't quite blossomed, but the Largo has sped up -- and yet Mravinsky finds more mystery and longing in it. Unless you must have stereo, this is one of the conductor's greatest Shostakovich recordings.
Russian Disc (1966) -- Another concert broadcast, also in mono, but the microphone placement is further away and has less impact than the one from the year before. The sound overall is a bit dull, but the piccolo shrieks, and the upper strings tend to be gritty. Mravinsky slows the first movement down by a minute and applies less fervor in the phrasing. That tends to be true throughout, until we get to the racing finale, now in full flight. It's confusing that Russian Disc offers duplicate live recordings of the Fifth -- this is decidedly the lesser of the two.
Erato (April, 1984) -- This stereo account joins a number of broadcasts licensed to the West that attempt to offer Mravinsky in best sound. One still faces audience noise (about equal on all three live discs and not overly disturbing). I may be wrong, but I believe this is the same performance once imported by Chant du Monde. The sound is reasonably good, but the stereo separation is narrow and rather distant. Except for clarity, I don't hear such a huge improvement as to make this a decisive choice. Mravinsky is fairly intense -- he hasn't lost his grip 47 years after premiering the symphony - and the racing finale is as exciting as any he ever set down.
Overal, my definite preference is for the 1965 Russian Disc version, paired with Mravinsky's equally riveting account of the Shostakovich 6th from 1972. Second choice would be the 1984 Erato stereo version. As a reading it's middle-of-the-road for Mravinsky, but modern sound has to count for something. And my favorite Shostakovich Fifth outside Mravinsky? I'd divide the honors between the first Bernstein recording (Sony) and Stokowski's stereo remake with the Stadium Sym. of NY on Everest -- once you look past the confusing name, these are both with the NY Phil."