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Lucerne Festival: Shostakovich Symphony No. 8 [Blu-ray]

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A performance for the ages - the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the charismatic yet calculated baton of Andris Nelsons give everything they've got to Shostakovich's might 8th Symphony.=2011 winner of the prestigious ECHO Klassik Award, Andris Nelsons is one of the most sought-after young conductors on the international scene today.=Over the next few seasons he will continue collaborations with Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. Andris Nelsons is a regular guest at Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera New York.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Classical, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: C Major Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 29, 2012
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B007N0SWGY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,575 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Gerhard P. Knapp on May 15, 2012
C Major has given us two outstanding disks, both recorded live in September 2011 at the Lucerne Festival, the one under review here and the other with the Beethoven "Emperor Concerto" and Scheherazade as the major pieces (see my review). Both feature the great Concertgebouw Orchestra (rejuvenated in the past two decades and, as my friend Clive S. Goodwin observes elsewhere, with a welcome increase in women musicians) under the incredibly gifted young Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons. My first encounter with Nelsons was the recent Barenboim/Chopin piano concertos DVD recording (Arthaus: see my review) where he provided stunning accompaniment for the soloist with the Staatskapelle Berlin. As can be expected, C Major's audio and video are state of the art, much superior to some other labels.

Wagner's Rienzi Overture and Strauss' Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome are orchestral showpieces, brilliantly played with ample opportunities for the first desks to shine in their solo passages. Tempi are fairly slow, but to no detriment of the musical impact. Regarding musical substance (don't ask me to define the term in a brief review...) they may be lightweight, but they provide a welcome counterpoint to the Shostakovich 8, a multi-layered, dark, brooding and often sarcastic piece, arguably this composer's most "difficult" symphony, a journey of way over an hour's music through pain, despair, angst, defiance and lament. I have heard many readings of the symphony, most of which appeared to stay on the music's surface, unable to come to grips with the shifts in mood and to get to the core of this symphonic microcosm.
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Since its initial stereo taping by Kiril Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic in 1963 and Andre Previn's Angel LP 10 years later, Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony in C Minor (1943) has received a multitude of studio recordings. Because of its demands on performers and audiences, however, it seldom shows up on concert programs. This strong performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons at the Lucerne Festival in 2011, in top video and audio quality, is thus a major addition to the catalog.

Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony from 1924-1949, said the Shostakovich Eighth "by the power of its human emotion surpasses everything else created in our time" ... and he was speaking of only the first movement. This massive Adagio reveals itself brilliantly through Nelsons' taut command and the RCO's virtuosity. As tension mounts, horns are sent screaming in unison to B-naturals above the staff. And at the peak of the central Allegro, while percussion hammer away, trumpets sound out in fortississimo at seven measures before rehearsal No. 35 (42:36 in this recording) the motto of alienation from the opening of Tchaikovsky's "Manfred" Symphony. After this overwhelming climax, the extended cor anglais solo, flawlessly performed, wanders to search for life among the ruins.

The Allegretto that follows is similar in function to the second movement of the Shostakovich Sixth, bringing us from the lonely world of icy introspection into the seeming innocence of everyday life.
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Shostakovitch was a very accomplished composer unfortunately living through WWII and the regime of Stalin the butcher did little for his creativity.

I find some of Shostakovitch's work depressing and bordering on the grotesque.
Having said that it captivates life in wartime Russia as the grey period it was.
One can only imagine how hard it must have been living through this period of gloom & oppression.
This BR combined with works from Richard Wagner was palatable and very enjoyable.
Nothing more need be said about maestro Nilsons' wonderful performance.
Both audio and video are five star!
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This concert was the first of two featuring the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons and was held at the Lucerne Festival in September 2011.

The program features three fine works which together make for a very satisfying program. The concert opens with a taut performance of Wagner's Rienzi Overture and which clearly displays Nelson's conducting style as being physically very involved with the music making of the players. It is easy to see why his obvious enthusiasm would encourage considerable levels of commitment from the players and why he has attained such prominence at such a young age.

The performance of the overture itself is very steady at 13.19 minutes. This interpretation is markedly slower than either Klemperer or Handley on CD for example, but about the same as Tennstedt in Japan or the Lang-Lessing performance at the start of his opera recording which are both on video discs. This preference for slower tempi is maintained throughout the concert and applies to both the following Dance of the Seven Veils by Strauss and the 8th Symphony of Shostakovich where Nelsons adds about another 7 minutes to the interpretation by Haitink with the same orchestra on CD. This latter is not considered fast and it is no mean feat for Nelsons to sustain such steady tempi throughout without any accompanying slackening of tension.

Indeed, it is this important control of tension in these three works that is so impressive as all three works require such an approach in order to communicate their messages. Nelsons is able to make use of the high level of skill displayed by this fine orchestra to bring out all sorts of subtleties of expressive detail without any trace of sentimentality.
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