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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 Original recording reissued

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, August 8, 2000
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Shostakovich: Symphony No.  7
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Editorial Reviews


Product Details

  • Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Bernard Haitink
  • Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Audio CD (August 8, 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording reissued
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B00000IP39
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,132 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Karl Henning on July 9, 2002
Format: Audio CD
The seventh (`Leningrad') symphony is a special case in all of music, but particularly in the twentieth century. I shall take the most unusual tack possible with this piece: I will concentrate principally on the music, and on this performance. A lot of the "news around the piece" gets in the way of the piece, indeed, for may of us, absolutely determines how we hear the piece. In a way, this is only perfectly natural, given the symphony's extraordinary circumstances. But I think we may gain a better understanding of the music itself, by a certain distance from the extra-musical discussion.
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.
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Format: Audio CD
Shostakovitch's 7th symphony has always been a victim of it's dramatic myth and early success. Written during the siege of Leningrad in WWII and smuggled out of the city, the symphony was embraced by the Allies during the war and conducted to great acclaim by Toscanini. After the war, however, as the Cold War deepened, it was dismissed by many, even those who admired other works by the composer, as a piece of "social realist propaganda". It's a shame, because this work has greater depths than that label might suggest.
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.
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Format: Audio CD
Some reviewers question whether the Shostakovich Sym. #7 is genuinely about the siege of Leningrad or a piece of pure music that fell into the lap of history. It gained its fame as a heroic war symphony and quickly lost popularity when the West stopped viewing the Soviet Union as an ally. I was excited by Leonard Bernstein's revival of the piece with the NY Phil. and then barely paid attention to it for thirty years.

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.
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Format: Audio CD
For me, the Seventh is the sovereign of the Shostakovich symphonies. I am mesmerized by its austerity and grandeur, which Haitink tellingly reveals particularly in his journey through the adagio. Listen to the purity of expression he draws from the strings, and with it, at times, an aching, flowing, singing musical line. In the opening movement, with its recurring march tune theme, he conveys an impression of rock steady command, and he also manifests a nice sense of poignancy toward the movement's close. Elsewhere, there's a quiet sense of mystery that carries one into the final movement, where things soon become more visceral and immediate. Haitink stays ably committed to the music's outspokenness. As the final portions unfold he projects a compelling seriousness and ultimately, with cumulative power, an intense feeling of stateliness...The London Philharmonic plays gloriously. In both interpretation and sound, this is an A-1 disc.
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