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Shostakovich • Weill: Symphony No. 2 etc

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Lahav Shani (Warner Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Shostakovich • Weill
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Weill: Symphony No. 2
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Lahav Shani
Warner Classics 9029547834   75:39 mins

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The contrast between the spiky opening gesture and the more sustained response at the start of Weill’s Second leaps out of the speakers. That’s a feature of the work and the performance throughout, although the balance of the texture sometimes relegates the all-important wind parts to a back seat. Lahav Shani drives the music forward for most of the movement, but slows too much for the Un poco meno mosso, and never quite regains momentum afterwards. The slow movement is much better controlled, and there’s some elegant solo playing in some of Weill’s most affecting melodies, which could sometimes be more forward. And a drier acoustic would have benefited the finale, but the character of the music emerges strongly, with its grotesque echoes of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and a nicely tapered acceleration in the final section.

That’s a studio recording, but the Shostakovich comes live from a pair of concerts. As with the Weill, the opening is arresting, though tempo and tension flag as the long introduction continues. After that, the arc of speed and dynamic, increasing then subsiding, is expertly done, with just a touch of congestion in sound at the climaxes. And the contrast between the satirically sinister waltz and the passionate lament in the central movements is pointed up with some very concentrated playing. The finale, though, can’t decide whether its ending is triumphant or doggedly mechanistic: a pity, as the trajectory has been certain up to that point. But much to enjoy, and the audience certainly did.

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Martin Cotton