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Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9
Valery Gergiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Kirov Orchestra
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #1

Gergiev pairs Shostakovich's most popular symphony with one of his wittiest. The Fifth was a lifesaver for the composer, literally. He'd come under severe attack from Stalin and his minions over the opera Lady Macbeth of M...  more »


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All Artists: Valery Gergiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Kirov Orchestra
Title: Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Philips
Release Date: 5/11/2004
Genre: Classical
Styles: Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 028947506522, 0028947506522

Gergiev pairs Shostakovich's most popular symphony with one of his wittiest. The Fifth was a lifesaver for the composer, literally. He'd come under severe attack from Stalin and his minions over the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Siberia or worse loomed. The Fifth was his response, a 1937 work of "socialist realism" glorifying "Soviet man." The subtext was quite different, the finale's numbing outburst of screaming brass and relentless drums implicitly damning the official line. But it's hardly a formulaic work, as its attractive melodies are clothed in typical Shostakovichian garb. Gergiev and the Kirov band capture the buildup of tension in the first movement, the sardonic nature of the Allegretto, and the grim Largo, as well as that ambiguous finale. The post-war Ninth was a return to his earlier cheeky style, a witty work full of high spirits. The Kirov excels here too, capturing the mocking vulgarity of the second movement and the satirical finale. Identical pairings of the two works are available from Yuri Temirkanov and Leonard Bernstein, but Gergiev's belongs in their company. --Dan Davis

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CD Reviews

Gergiev and the Kirov excel at lush detail
R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 08/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Valery Gergiev has recorded Shostakovich's most popular and well-known symphony, #5. Not only that, he has recorded it along with #9, the same pairing as two of the best known recordings of #5 by Bernstein and Haitink. #9 was recorded in the Kirov's own Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, and #5 was recorded in Finland, both in 2002. Both are superbly performed and recorded, and showcase the distinctive strength of Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra -- delving into the score and bringing out lush details often overlooked by others.

Why then only four stars? I reserve my fifth star for Symphony #5 for Rostropovich's shattering performance on DG from the 1970s, currently unavailable. This new Gergiev rendition is quite good, comparable in quality overall to Mravinsky's 1984 account and Haitink's on Decca (see my reviews of both). Gergiev chooses a strange way to resolve the controversy over the ending -- Bernstein and some others present a real triumph, while others, including Mravinsky, Rostropovich and Haitink, present a mock triumph, or a triumph of evil. This interpretation is achieved by slowing down the tempo. Gergiev rolls right through the ending with no inflection either way -- the climax becomes a non-climax. I find this totally unsatisfactory. Rostropovich's triumph of evil may be an exaggeration of the score, but its power is undeniable.

As for #9, the only version I had heard previously was Haitink's. Gergiev takes the first movement considerably slower. I prefer Haitink's faster-paced interpretation, but the tempo gives Gergiev room to bring out lush flourishes, which is one of his trademarks. Just listen to his "Le Sacre du printemps" by Stravinsky (see my review) -- though it is episodic and loses momentum, there are brilliant, detailed passages that other accounts miss. The recording quality of the new Philips discs is far superior to the old Decca recordings by Haitink as well, as a back-to-back listen immediately reveals.

Gergiev's new recording of Shostakovich's #7, released last year, was universally acclaimed as setting a new standard for that work, long reviled by critics as overly bombastic (see my review). How? Mainly by bringing out the lush details in the central movements. He has not produced such a definitive breakthrough with this new #5/#9, but it is a fine rendition, worth hearing as an introduction to the works, or as an addition to a shelf of various interpretations and performances."
As fine as we have come to expect form Gergiev and Kirov
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich are in the body and heart of conductor Valery Gergiev. Put him on the podium before his Kirov Orchestra and the results are richly textured, tense, exciting, and satisfying performances. This album, which aptly pairs the Fifth and the Ninth Symphonies, is all the more vital in that it is recorded during live performances. The acoustics are grand and spacious and the arching lines and quirky diversions inherent in Shostakovich's work are refined and at the same time 'raw', in the best sense of the word. In the Fifth, Gergiev surprises with a few personal inflections in his timings and phrasings and makes the first movement especially fresh. Few conductors can serve these quintessential Russian symphonies better than Gergiev. Keep the whole cycle coming!"
Highly confident, forward-looking performances from Gergiev
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As the mixed reviews would suggest, Gergiev's exuberant Shostakovich Fifth and Ninth won't be to everyone's taste. If you are looking for up-to-date sound and superb orchestral execution, however, you need look no further--these are plush readings captured in superb sonics. The problems, if they arise, have to do with interpretation. Gergiev sees both works as positive and forward-looking; there are no hidden messages from a dissident artist suffering under totalitarian oppression.

In other words, Gergiev gives us "official" Shostakovich, and that affronts listeners who want these works to be subversive. Leonard Bernstein took the same positive approach to the Fifth Sym. in his famous 1959 recording, and yet Gergiev betters him in grandness, helped by incredibly lifelike sound. The Kirov Orch. outplays the NY Phil, the first Russian ensemble of which this could be said. We hear Shostakovich's music executed with such precision and fullness that it's quite breathtaking at times, and the Largo of the Fifth is even more eloquent than usual under Gergiev's passionate direciton. Bernstein surpasses his Russian rival only in the finale, where instead of following the composer's fairly measured opening Allegro, Bernstein races away in a breathless Presto that transforms the music and rids it of pomposity. Gergiev adheres to the score and therefore runs the risk of sounding rhetorical; there are some dawdling moments in the quiet middle section also.

The Ninth is performed with equally impressive technique, and here Gergiev has a new idea. The Ninth offended the Soviet musical establishment with its cheekiness; a heroic symphony was expected in tribute to the travail of the Russian people during WW II. Ever since, conductors have tried to outdo each other to make the Ninth even more irreverent--a raspberry in the face of a repressive regime--but Gergiev expands it into another forward-looking, positive work. You may miss the irreverence, but in this optimistic version the symphony sounds bigger, more important, and also more measured. I was convinced by Gergiev on his own terms, and again the beauty of the recorded sound is quite seductive. (Gergiev's 2009 remake on the Mariinsky label is much the same interpretation.)

In all, this is a major release in the Shostakovich discography and a success for all concerned."