Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 (Leningrad)

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Symphony No. 7 (Leningrad)
PERFORMER: St Petersburg PO/Yuri Temirkanov
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 62548 2 DDD
More than ever before, it is the introspective side of Shostakovich’s avowedly public wartime symphony which begs our careful attention in Temirkanov’s uncompromisingly sombre reading. Those distant voices of hope and humanity which make their lonely way through the first two movements’ landscapes of destruction verge on the inaudible, requiring the strenuous participation of the listener, which is as it should be; once again RCA engineers refuse to turn up the levels or fiddle with the ambience in the St Petersburg Philharmonic Hall. The more obviously impressive results are a clear woodwind and brass, a warm presence for cellos and basses, and an easy management of the first movement’s juggernaut of war, its tenor implicit rather than spectacularly brassy or whipped up as it is in Järvi’s more extrovert performance on Chandos.

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On home territory, Temirkanov inclines more to Mravinsky’s seriousness – albeit with a shade more flexibility – than to Jansons’s poster-paint chronicle (EMI); though it’s good to have so different a view with the same orchestra and the lithe pacing of Jansons’s finale conceals the triumph of manner over matter better than this atmospheric championship of the movement’s central slough of despond. Full marks for trying, but there’s no concealing the fact that the composer’s heart, for a fair stretch at least, isn’t really in it. David Nice