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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Mariinsky
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos 4-6
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 4-6
PERFORMER: Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev


It is only about 12 years since Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky musicians last recorded these symphonies. In that time, however, the Mariinsky has acquired a purpose-built concert hall: its acoustic advantage is immediately evident in the Fourth Symphony’s thunderous opening, but also with a rich bloom and resonance to its sound which outclasses the admirable Philips recording made in the Mariinsky Theatre.


The Fourth and Fifth Symphonies also benefit from Gergiev’s recent experience of conducting Mahler, informing the Mariinsky’s playing of Shostakovich’s Mahler-inspired woodwind and string writing. The Fourth, recorded under studio conditions, receives a very ferocious yet well delineated account. The Fifth, recorded over three live concerts, sounds a little less polished, Gergiev’s ponderous tempo for its opening recalling the style of yesteryear Beethoven performances. But perhaps that’s the point: this is, after all, Shostakovich’s ostensive essay in neo-classicism, and by the movement’s end, with its eerie scoring of which the celesta is simply its icing, one feels one has travelled a long way from that apparently conventional start. Still, the Largo is rather matter of fact, belying its reputation as the movement that reduced its first audience to tears. But then one can hear how the Sixth’s opening slow movement revisits that Largo’s mournful world before entering the apparently quite unrelated carnival world of the second and third movements. Gergiev’s relatively manic pace in these latter movements creates a suitably febrile atmosphere. Daniel  Jaffé