Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich Symphony No. 5
WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: LSOMstislav Rostropovich
Set the volume high before you


listen to this Shostakovich Fifth:

the clenched-fist strings at the start

will do you no harm and otherwise

you’ll strain to catch the wan, distant

melody from the first violins shortly

afterwards. This is the sort of thing

at which Rostropovich excels; the

frozen wastes, the seas of desolation

which cover tracts of this carefully

proportioned symphony have never

been more atmospherically charted.

It’s a pity, then, that the live

Barbican recording doesn’t stand

further back to let perspectives tell.

And while the volatile extremes of

Rostropovich’s massive conducting

style would no doubt have been

compelling at the concerts from which

this disc was assembled, it can be a

bumpy ride in the colder light of CD.

For that reason, Rostropovich seems

to take longer in the slow movement

than either Gergiev (Philips) or

Jansons (EMI); in fact he’s a good

few minutes faster. The finale, on

the other hand, both feels and is

purposefully elephantine; the timpani

blows rain down heavily at the end,

in marked contrast to Jansons’s

spectacular, fast-burning conflagration

or Gergiev’s more neutral resolution.

There’s room for this interpretation,

despite the above reservations; at

the price, it’s well worth adding to

the line-up, and you can’t complain

if it stands alone (Jansons adds the

string-orchestra arrangement of the

Eighth Quartet, Gergiev the equivocal

Ninth Symphony). No doubt about

it, though: the real apocalypse is yet

to come when LSO Live releases

Rostropovich’s recent devastating

performance of the colossal Eighth


Symphony. David Nice