A third of a century after his death the symphonies of Dmitry Shostakovich have moved to the absolute centre of the repertoire. Written during World War II, the unusually constructed Eighth Symphony is a powerful work built on striking contrasts betwee
"...My first encounter with Vasily Petrenko's Shostakovich cycle has proved to be a rewarding experience. It seems to me that he really has the measure of this epic work and he's conveyed his vision to the orchestra who reward him with consistently top quality playing. The recorded sound is very good, as is the documentation, including an evocative photograph on the booklet cover, showing the composer at work on this very symphony in 1943. This powerful, stirring performance would be a leading library contender at full price. At the Naxos price its claims on collectors' attentions are even greater. I eagerly await further instalments in this cycle, especially the Fourth and Tenth symphonies." -- Music Web International - John Quinn
The Eighth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was composed in the summer of 1943 as Soviet forces turned the tide of war with their decisive victory at the Battle of Kursk. Though it is less well-know than its much-hyped predecessor, the garish "Leningrad" Symphony, it is in all respects a far superior work. The epic five-movement structure of the Eighth is balanced on a pair of memorable Scherzo movements that move from biting sarcasm to sheer terror, flanked by a poignant 25-minute opening movement and a finale terminating in an atmosphere of serene resignation. The ambiguous, highly personal language of the work was criticized for its dearth of overt patriotism and was poorly received. Christened the "Stalingrad" Symphony by Soviet propagandists, performances of the work were officially banned in 1948 and the work was not heard again in Russia until 1956.
This superb Naxos disc marks the third installment of a very promising series of Shostakovich symphonies conducted by Vasily Petrenko with the Liverpool Philharmonic. Though a mere 34 years old, the Russian maestro clearly has the Liverpool ensemble in his thrall. With his uncanny knack for drawing together the disparate elements of Shostakovich's prolix language into a coherent argument and an equally fine ear for subtle interpretive details, Petrenko makes a very strong impression indeed. The recording is bright and spacious, the performance is excellent, and the price can't be beat. -- The Whole Note, Daniel Foley