WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (To October); Symphony No. 3 (The First of May)
PERFORMER: London Voices, LSO/Mstislav Rostropovich
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-90853-2 DDD
Although I would normally hesitate to endorse a CD offering less than 50 minutes of music, this is a hugely recommendable disc for any music lover seeking to encompass Shostakovich in his ‘heroic’ vein. Having already recorded seven other Shostakovich symphonies for Teldec either with the LSO or with his own National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, Rostropovich now adds a pair (from 1927 and 1929) of great rarity – both of them celebrating, with final triumphant choruses, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The suspensefulness and the exultation find Rostropovich in marvellous control.
Incomprehensibly, the accompanying booklet prints in large Russian type, and in translation, the texts of two poems that are not sung before the two which are. (The British voices valiantly tackle the Russian texts, even a moment of speech.) Historical distance allows it to be understood why these works were originally written in a spirit of Soviet pride, as well as why their modernism offended Soviet officialdom. All that matters now is whether they are musically interesting: they are, given a willingness to allow a composer to prolong his political Hallelujahs as Handel did his religious ones. Excellent recording. Arthur Jacobs