WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6 ; Symphony No. 10
PERFORMER: BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Mark Wigglesworth
CATALOGUE NO: CD-973-74
Best at concentrating on the fragility and loneliness of Shostakovich’s humanity, Wigglesworth’s second instalment of the symphonies brings performances purged of bombast or rhetoric – witness the coda of the Fifth, which conductors habitually inflate into wide-screen heroics but which he, in pursuit of its subversive message of ‘victory against Stalin, not for him’, takes straight (no slowing-down is called for in the score).
There are odd discomfitures – the banal rush of brass at 2:47 of the second movement, occasional lapses of ensemble at high speed (the Sixth coheres better in this respect). But his Tenth, broader overall than the composer’s expectation (50 minutes) or Previn (1982), but without the ponderousness of Maxim Shostakovich (1990), deals in stark oppositions of dynamics, articulation and timbre. Some seem too much, such as the opening and whole tracts of the third movement – so quiet as to be practically inaudible (they’re only marked piano). But when it comes to the Siberian gulags (slow sorrow), the need to be seen publicly to smile (quick bustle) and the defiant voice of the individual (the unwritten agenda of the finale), such extremes could not be more emotionally apposite.
Previn and the LSO, spectacularly recorded, favour a traditionally upfront Tenth, the tighter disciplined virtuosity of which brings different rewards. Babi Yar grips less, its Englishness of choral delivery contrasting with the brooding Slavonic tension of Maxim’s very special 1995 Supraphon account. Artes Orga