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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 Original recording reissued
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The first movement is a combination of a sonata-allegro design, and a loose set of variations on a repeated theme, very deliberately modeled on Ravel's "Boléro," which interrupts the sonata-design architecture.
The opening of the movement is earnest, even something heroic, in an unfeigned manner a little unusual for Shostakovich, whose "upbeat" music often takes sharply ironic turns; there are moments when you almost think, "Copland might have written such a passage." The second theme, beginning in the strings, then with an answer in the solo oboe & woodwinds, and the string choir which follows, is light and pastoral in character. And Haitink with the LSO brings this ease and grace out of the score with effortless simplicity.
Stopping here for just a moment, it is obvious that this piece stands in marked contrast to Shostakovich's three prior symphonies. This is music entirely different to the overwhelmingly tense and strident fourth symphony, to the melancholy introspection of the fifth symphony (whose "triumphant" finale, even, raises more questions than it solves), to the restless unease of the sixth.Read more ›
The 7th Symphony reveals it's wartime subject only in a few places, mostly in the first and second movements. Most obviously you have the famous "Theme and Variations" development, where Shostakovitch's seemingly innocuous first theme is gradually brutalized by the orchestra, leading to a shattering climax. And yet, most of the work is darker, less propaganda than lament. The third movement in particular seems gorgeously tragic.
The Haitink series with the Concertgebow is a wonderful Shostakovitch cycle, one that I aquired in it's last incarnation. Haitink is not usually a conductor that I think of as exciting, but he rises to Shostakovitch very well. (The composer seems to get the best out of a lot of mediocre conductors. Rostropovitch does Shostakovitch extremely well, even though most of the rest of his tenure with the National Symphony was unspectacular. Same holds true for Maxime Shostakovitch.) This CD would make a good choice for this wonderful symphony.
But recently I went back to compare this twenty-year-old Haitink reading with the London Phil. (not the Concertgebouw--he alternated between the two orchestras for his Shostakovich cycle) and the recent Gergiev account with the Kirov Orch. on Philips. I expected Gergiev to excel on all counts, but there were surprising differences. First, the sound. Haitink is given wide-ranging, colorful sound that's fairly bright. Gergiev is given more distant, slightly cramped, duller sound. That's disappointing in the age of SACD.
As to timings, both conductors tend to pace deliberately. Haitink takes almost 29 min. in the first movement as compared to Gergiev's 27 min. What surprised me is that in the infamous jolly little march, which sounds best if taken satirically or at least with a snarl, Gergiev is carefree, setting aside any reference to invading Nazis on the march. Haitink is rather neutral; neither tries to make the music menacing or premonitory.
Haitink takes the quasi-Scherzo second movement a minute and a half faster than Gergiev, but that's enough to give his version a greater sense of urgency. At this point it would seem that Haitink will be better overall, but suddenly the woddwinds in the third movement cry out with real pain and panic under Gergiev, while Haitink is so neutral you muse about how the chords resemble Stravinsky.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The review included in the purchase was excellent the music was great. Thanks!Published 3 months ago by Robert L. Cox
The great Leningrad with its great tempo has never been better represented than with Bernard HaitinkPublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
A splendid rendition of a thrilling symphony! What more can one say? Great art and great music have no political or sovereignty boundaries. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Ted Shakespeare
I saw this performed at the Edinburgh Arts Festival in August 2014 by the Leningrad Shostakovich Orchestra. The performance was outstanding and no one in the Orchestra was over 30. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Robert A. Busillo
02-21-2014 When I first heard this work I thought it a Russian Bolero, (l.o.l. ) The opening movement contais that famous march theme that aids the first movement in reaching... Read morePublished on February 21, 2014 by NUC MED TECH
This is a stirring performance of the historic "Leningrad" symphony containing the 1st movement ostinato section that Bartok satirized in his Concerto for Orchestra.Published on January 9, 2014 by William Hendricks
About a year ago I gave three stars to the Gergiev Philips account of this symphony. I give this one four, for the absolutely direct, no-nonsense presentation. Read morePublished on November 5, 2013 by Stanley Crowe