Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 6

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: Berlin SO/Kurt Sanderling
CATALOGUE NO: 0021812 BC ADD
The beautifully moulded phrasing of the ruminative cello and bass motif which opens this symphony arouses considerable expectations from the performance. Yet although Jansons has invested the score with a wealth of illuminating detail, the overall impression remains somewhat fitful. In general, he is at his finest when the tension is nearest to breaking point. Thus the long development section in the first movement is particularly impressive, and when the climax eventually arrives the impact is overwhelming. But in passages where the musical argument is introverted, Jansons appears to be less involved. Nonetheless, the superb playing of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the added bonus of Robert Lloyd’s compelling account of the Mussorgsky, make this a desirable issue, though not one to challenge the pre-eminence of Mravinsky’s legendary account of the Symphony.

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Kurt Sanderling, a long-time associate of the composer, doesn’t have the benefit of such a well-groomed orchestra as the Philadelphia. There are moments throughout this disc, recorded in the Eighties, when one wished for a more pristine ensemble. Yet despite this reservation, Sanderling demonstrates an effective structural grasp of these two symphonies. This is particularly true of the First, which receives an unusually weighty account that attains a judicious balance between the satirical and melancholic aspects of the score. Erik Levi