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Shostakovich: Symphonies #1 & 14 - Sir Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Dmitri Shostakovich, Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic
Shostakovich: Symphonies #1 & 14 - Sir Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #2

This stunning new recording, taken from live performances in Berlin, features symphonies composed by Shostakovich early and late in his life. The 14th, a cycle of 11 songs, is a series of meditations of one sort or another...  more »


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All Artists: Dmitri Shostakovich, Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic
Title: Shostakovich: Symphonies #1 & 14 - Sir Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: EMI Classics
Original Release Date: 1/1/2006
Re-Release Date: 6/6/2006
Genre: Classical
Styles: Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 094635807721

This stunning new recording, taken from live performances in Berlin, features symphonies composed by Shostakovich early and late in his life. The 14th, a cycle of 11 songs, is a series of meditations of one sort or another on death(or immortality, dissent or loss of some sort), for solo bass and soprano voices, and scored for strings and percussion (made up of castanets, woodblock, three tom toms, whip, bells, vibraphone, xylophone, celesta). The songs are potent indeed, each being a microcosm of some type of pain, and Sir Simon Rattle has chosen superb soloists: Karita Mattila, at her most lyrical, refuses to shout, scaling her voice back to a point of intimacy when required, but of course with reserves of power; and Thomas Quasthoff, whose voice is more ravishing with each passing year, wrings all the feeling out of his texts. Rattle gets great playing from the orchestra, with the percussion startling with each of its aggressive entrances. The 1st Symphony is a huge contrast---very classical and bright, but also with surprising depth of feeling in the slow movement---a hint of what was to come in the composer's career. The performance is excellent, with particularly gorgeous, expressive playing from the oboes. Highly recommended. --Robert Levine

CD Reviews

An Eloquent Shostakovich Symphony No. 14
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Fortunate we are to have several excellent choices in recordings of this brilliant Shostakovich Symphony No. 14. Based on poems of death by Apollinaire, Lorca, Kuchelbecker, and Rilke and scored for large strings and percussion only orchestra the piece demands almost as much from the listener as it does form the performing forces. At a recent performance in Los Angeles, brilliant though it was in every way, many of the audience members walked out, unable to tolerate the dark work.

Here Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic strings with depth and fluid passion and gathers as much color as possible form the writing. The absolutely first rate singers are Karita Mattila and Thomas Quasthoff, and the mere mention of their names should offer sufficient reassurance that the musicianship, color of voice, and communication of these difficult texts is sufficient to guarantee a brilliant performance. But these two singers, and especially Quasthoff, delve so deeply into the meaning of the poems, finding all the subtleties of the writing that the listener is frozen in time. It is a brilliant recording.

The jaunty First Symphony of Shostakovich is an added CD to the set, and a very welcome one at that. Often dismissed as 'youthful' and therefore not worth including in the major works of Shostakovich, this work has so many suggestions of the places the composer would so powerfully go in his tumultuous career. Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic give a fine reading, making us appreciated the work all the more. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, August 06"
Klingsor Tristan | Suffolk | 07/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Both Shostakovich's last two symphonies are obsessed with death. And both are profoundly Russian in their approach to their subject matter. They share a deep darkness at their hearts to which Russians seem to have a unique key. And both are leavened by that biting sardonic Russian humour which, in Shostakovich's hands, always seems equally black.

No.14 is perhaps the darker of the two, aided by the monochrome colouring of its strings-only orchestra and abetted by the flashes of colour and texture from the large percussion group that complements it. Despite taking its texts from a broad range of European poets, it is this profound Russian blackness that is the all-pervading characteristic of the piece. De profundis (the title of the first poem) indeed.

And it is perhaps such quintessential Russianness that this disc lacks. Wonderful singers, wonderful orchestra, and a wonderful conductor ultimately cannot substitute for that echt Russian voice. The singers, especially Mattila, certainly have their moments of magical singing - her lilies in the Suicide and, for that matter, Quastoff's O Delvig, Delvig are both intense and moving. But not precisely in the right way. Shostakovich himself tried to provide a way out by authorising the singing of the texts in the poems' original languages (as used by Mr. and Mrs. Fischer-Dieskau on Decca). But it's a stop-gap - no substitute for the real thing. For that you have to turn to real Russians singing in real Russian such as Vishnevskaya and Rezhetin for Rostropovich.

Much the same comments apply to the orchestral playing and conducting, as well. There is certainly the full range of string colour and devices here - rich bass and cello sonorities, full violin tone, col legno and sul ponticello effects, pizzicati that are full and rich or spookily glassy as the score demands - all wonderfully played by the Berlin Philharmonic. But once again, you don't feel this music is in their or their conductor's bones. Rattle too often is caught up by the moment, worrying at a phrase or seeking out deeper truths in the inner voices. But it is all rather counterproductive. The flow and symphonic thrust of the whole piece seems to elude him and it tends to remain just a song-cycle. Even the moving reprise of the opening material much later passes for relatively little.

For that real Russian darkness and intensity, I would turn to Rostropovich with his wife and Mark Rezhetin. Or, for a fascinating alternative, the same singers join Benjamin Britten - the dedicatee of the symphony - in the first performance of the piece outside Russia on a BBC Legends disc. Perhaps not totally echt, but Britten was never less than elucidating when conducting other composers' music as well as his own.

Symphony No.1 on a separate disc fares better. The teeming plethora of ideas and vivid orchestral imagination of the 19-year old composer get the treatment from Rattle and his Berliners. Even here, though, there are times when the sheer variety of the ideas don't always gel together. Nevertheless an exciting performance of a symphony that was always much more cosmopolitan in outlook than its successor from late in Shostakovich's life.
Setting a new standard in (non-Russian) recordings of the Fo
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 07/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This new EMI recording is so splendid musically and so spellbinding in its sonics that it sets a new standard. The death-soaked Shostakovich Fourteenth is a tough listen. Its Russian blackness has been brightened here in several ways. Instead of a Slavic bass we have Quasthoff's refined German baritone. This removes some of the grim visceral power in the male songs, but Shostakovich is suicidally bleak in many of these songs, and frankly, getting a little relief is welcome. Karita Mattila's soprano is ripe enough to sound almost Slavic, but with a blessed lack of Slavic wobble and shrill edginess.

The second big change is the virtuosity of the Berlin Phil., which offers the ear sensual pleasure amid all the gloom. The strings are sweet, supple, and agile. The percusison is razor-sharp and full of color as recorded live by EMI's engineers. I can see why the reviewer below doesn't think this performance is Russian enough; it just happens that I prefer it less biting and brutal (my old favorite being the Haitink recording on Decca with Fischer-Dieskau and Julia Varady, who leaven the text even more by singing the eleven poems in their several original languages instead of Russian).

EMI has sweetened the mix by adding Rattle's live reading of the popular First Sym. on a bonus disc. The First is a jaunty student work, though it has itws own darker shadings. The listener gets a chance to contrast the old and young Shostakovich; one is more likely to flee to the First to sweep the gloom of the Fourteenth out of the house. Actually, Ratle's performance is a touch seroius and carefully played; it's not the romp that Haitink's was. Gergiev and Dohnanyi, both of whom I heard live in this piece, take the same more sober view. The outstanding thing here is the gorgeous, detailed sound and as ever, the playing of the Berlin Phil.