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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos 1 & 15
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1 & 15
PERFORMER: Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Mark Wigglesworth


t’s intriguing to experience Shostakovich’s first and final symphonies side by side. Superficially one might have expected there to be little tangible connection between works that span almost 50 years of a turbulent life. Yet for all its youthful exuberance, the grotesquerie in the opening movement and scherzo of the First is surely recalled with even more sinister undertones in the equivalent movements of the later work. And although the slow movement and finale of the Fifteenth are on a much grander scale, the unexpected change of mood in the second half of the First Symphony already seems to hint at the tragic demeanour of the composer’s symphonic swansong.

These connections are brought vividly to life here. As in previous recordings in this fine Shostakovich cycle, Mark Wigglesworth provides compelling and insightful interpretations that keep you transfixed, a quality highlighted by my colleague Daniel Jaffé in his review of the First, which has been previously released. Apart from the uniformly high quality of orchestral playing and the outstandingly brilliant SACD sound, the great strength of Wigglesworth’s interpretations lies in the keenly articulated response to every inflection, without ever sounding cerebral or lacking in emotional heft. Wigglesworth adopts expansive speeds for the outer movements of the Fifteenth, but he keeps a tight grip on the structure, building up climaxes of awesome power in the few passages where Shostakovich unleashes the full might of the orchestra. Likewise, the pacing is immaculate in the ominous funereal tread of the Adagio.


Erik Levi