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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Russian National Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 511 (hybrid CD/SACD)


Paavo Järvi’s Leningrad is the opposite of his father’s 1988 epic with the Scottish National Orchestra – light, laconic and sonically lean where Neeme’s recording was spectacularly big in every way. Maybe this is to make a virtue out of the Russian National strings, which disappointingly lack body and are unable to bite deep into the fortissimo precision which would be a saving grace in a finale desperately short of good material on Shostakovich’s part. But Järvi II has an interesting approach to the first movement, where he treats much of the material from the start as satirical, taking the second subject slower rather than faster as the score suggests so that he can make it an idyllic interlude in a hall of mirrors. The side drum and pizzicato as the Bolero effect begins are on the cusp of audibility in a recording of huge sonic range.


The scherzo, rightly, appears painfully private, with impressive shudders from the flutes as the disconsolate song sinks to the bass clarinet. The woodwind, though, are oddly powerless at the start of the Adagio – no apocalyptic echoes here of a work which Shostakovich worshipped, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. As for Järvi’s intentions, they aren’t always easy to discern in one of the trickiest of Shostakovich’s symphonies to bring off. David Nice