COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich Symphonies Nos 9 & 12
PERFORMER: Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Mark Wigglesworth
The latest instalment in Mark Wigglesworth’s ongoing survey of Shostakovich’s symphonies offers many of the virtues that were apparent in some of his earlier releases. Apart from outstanding demonstration sound which is more than a match for the impressive SACD set from Kitajenko and Gürzenich Orchestra on Capriccio, there is the impressive orchestral playing of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic boasting both incisive ensemble and distinctive individual contributions.

Advertisement MPU reviews

Admittedly Wigglesworth doesn’t go for the jugular in these symphonies to the same extent as Kondrashin or Mravinsky. Indeed few conductors rival the latter in managing to generate the maximum amount of visceral excitement out of the first movement of the 12th. But if Wigglesworth’s interpretation operates at a lower level of intensity, he makes a more conscious effort to weld the work’s diffuse structure into a convincing whole. In this respect I was particularly taken with the brooding and atmospheric account of ‘Razliv’, a movement that usually strikes me as being directionless and repetitive. Wigglesworth is also impressive in building up a considerable head of steam through the crescendo of ‘Aurora’. Even the finale seems more coherent than normal, perhaps because Wigglesworth resists the temptation to over-inflate the musical argument.

If the first movement of the Ninth seems playful rather than sarcastic, Wigglesworth’s fine ear for orchestral sonority always brings out unusual elements in the scoring. His insights make this performance and that of the 12th well worth hearing, and an extremely viable alternative to the complete cycles that are delivered under the direction of Kitajenko, Kondrashin or Jansons.

Advertisement MPU reviews

Erik Levi