Symphonies Nos 9 & 10
London Symphony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda
LSO Live LSO 0828 (CD/SACD) 79:05 mins
This latest instalment in Gianandrea Noseda’s Shostakovich cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) is an extremely impressive achievement. For once, the razor-sharp clarity of texture and dazzling precision of ensemble that Noseda secures from the orchestra in blistering accounts of opening movement, scherzo and finale of the Ninth is heard to its best advantage, despite the Barbican Hall’s unforgivingly dry acoustic. Indeed, the harsh cutting edge of the upper woodwind, the percussive articulation of the strings and the snarling contribution from the brass all serve to enhance the destabilising and deeply ironic nature of Shostakovich’s musical message.
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Equally destabilising however, but in a rather more poignant manner, are Noseda’s halting tempo and wonderfully expressive phrasing for the second movement Moderato and the marvellous sense of time standing still in the mournful bassoon solo of the fourth movement Largo.
The opening movement of the Tenth seems to follow on naturally from the lamenting Moderato of the Ninth. At times perhaps Noseda adopts too contemplative an approach, seemingly reluctant to move the music forward. Nonetheless, when we actually arrive at the movement’s big climax, the impact is undoubtedly overwhelming, as it is in the vehement account of the ensuing Allegro. The hall’s acoustic is less kind to the distant horn solos in the Allegretto, though there is also some miraculously quiet playing from the orchestra. More controversial is the very slow tempo which Noseda adopts for the introductory Andante to the finale. In some senses, this approach draws a deeper connection to the mood of the opening movement, though the transition into the more upbeat if emotionally equivocal Allegro is not so convincingly handled here as in some other recordings.
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