Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos 5 & 9

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 5 & 9
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572167

The more subversive of these two symphonies draws a truly breathtaking response from Vasily Petrenko and his now world-class Liverpudlians.
Light and well-sprung through the opening bars, an amazingly well articulated central Presto and the start of the finale, Petrenko’s interpretation of the Ninth unleashes the full ferocity of threatening developments and proves that the Moderato, however spare, remains as eloquent a slow movement as any in Shostakovich’s works.
In the finale he takes a liberty in speeding up the return of the allegretto before we reach the allegro (for which, again, read presto) coda, but he carries it off. Superb playing all round, too, not just from the spotlit bassoon in the crucial recitative but also from first oboe, piccolo and the pairs of subtly phrasing clarinets.
In the Fifth Symphony, the principal flautist is representative of Petrenko’s care in making sure every phrase sounds absolutely right for the context: wistful in the opening movement’s only lyrical repose, only to shut down the vibrato for all but one crucial note in the parallel loneliness of the slow movement.
With the recording capturing the full, glowing sheen of high frequencies, there’s an individual balance between classical focus of sound and intense expression throughout, and if I agree less with the broad peroration (I prefer Mariss Jansons’s more driven quality in this tricky finale, recorded on EMI), that’s merely a matter of taste. David Nice