Shostakovich; Shostakovich; Tormis

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich; Shostakovich; Tormis
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Symphony No. 10; Symphony No. 10; Overture No. 2
PERFORMER: Cincinnati SO/Paavo Järvi


Several conductors have made their youthful mark at the Proms with Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony – Simon Rattle in his early days with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, more recently Gustavo Dudamel with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra.

Haitink’s was already a mature, assured interpretation by the time this live performance with the LPO occurred in 1986 (the same team had already recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies). Carefully moulded within the sometimes cavernous Albert Hall acoustics, its breadth of vision never feels too slow thanks to the inner life of the lines and the way the steady changes of colour in the first movement seem firmly rooted in the inexorable argument.

While the terraced climaxes of that mighty span have an inward power rather than a brute force, the sense of occasion brings an extra charge to the Allegretto’s climactic battle between Shostakovich’s personal signature and the Mahlerian horn cry of liberation, and to the conflicts of the ultimately triumphant finale. The occasional slight smudge in the string phrasing and the inevitably recessed sound seem like a very small price to pay for such a palpable event.

Starting with similar louring presence from the lower strings, Paavo Järvi’s approach adds a few expressive nudges of its own leading up to a clearly balanced and spring-heeled first-movement development. It’s an unusual anticipation of the whirlwind scherzo, itself clipped, punchy and keenly phrased rather than the usual sledgehammer horror.

The transitional Allegretto begins with chamber-musical sensitivity and the kind of atmosphere that frequently compensates for the slightly lightweight quality of Cincinatti’s disciplined orchestra.

The brooding introduction and articulate high jinks of a faultless finale find their mirror-images respectively in the haunting heart and driving outer-section rhythms of Veljo Tormis’s Overture No. 2. Composed six years after Shostakovich Ten, commended as a potential symphonic starting-point by the older composer and championed by Tormis’s fellow Estonians, Järvi father and son, it provides a blazing and original further incentive to investigate this conductor’s cogent thoughts.


Inevitably, perhaps, father Neeme has also recorded both works, and his Shostakovich remains more imposing in terms of orchestral sound, but these performances certainly know their own mind. David Nice