Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos 6 & 9 (BBC NOW)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Steven Lloyd-Gonzalez (FHR)
Symphonies Nos 6 & 9
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Steven Lloyd-Gonzalez
First Hand FHR120 60:18 mins
Each unique in its symphonic structure, these two symphonies are as remarkable as the other true masterpieces in the Shostakovich canon (4, 8, 10 and the last three). With a conductor unknown to me – Steven Lloyd-Gonzalez – and an orchestra which doesn’t always flame as it might, I feared a possible opportunity wasted. How wrong I was: the sonorous directness at the start of the Sixth is up there with the best – most recently Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra – and Lloyd-Gonzalez doesn’t miss a trick or dynamic in Shostakovich’s encylopedia of moods and contrasts.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales has never been on finer form, assisted by the stunning production from Andrew Walton and Debs Spanton in Cardiff’s BBC Hoddinott Hall. A special halo may have been put around the strings, but you can’t simply engineer horn playing of full-throated magnificence like this, nor the nuances of superb wind soloists (E flat and other clarinets, flute, bassoon). There’s only one tempo I’d take issue with – the slower-than-moderato pace for the Ninth’s second movement, proven to work at a relatively fast speed in the best recordings when I did a BBC Radio 3 Building a Library on that symphony. No doubt about it, though, this one would have been up there with the best, and the articulation of the central Presto is astonishing; likewise the contrasts between the heartache of the big first movement in the Sixth and the comic-grotesque romps which follow.
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