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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich/Haydn/Hindemith
LABELS: Sony St Petersburg Classics
WORKS: Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a; Symphony No. 49 in F minor (La Passione); Funeral Music for Viola and Strings
PERFORMER: Dmitri Jakubovsky (viola)St Petersburg Camerata/Saulius Sondeckis
Music of Death and Suffering is the sombre subtitle of this collection from an ensemble made up largely of graduates from the St Petersburg Conservatory under its founder-director. Sondeckis’s strings and (a melodramatic touch) timpani arrangement of Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet, like the better-known one by Rudolf Barshai, both amplifies and coarsens the original. The nature of the piece is open to dispute. Written in 1960 (the year the composer joined the Communist Party), and dedicated ‘to the victims of Fascism and war’, the Quartet, with its many self-quotations, can be heard as autobiographical, its vehement rhetoric and unsmiling humour representing a hard and painful inward stare on the part of its creator.


Occupying a superficially similar emotional world, Haydn’s La Passione symphony is hardly helped by this heavy-handed and stylistically awkward performance. The Funeral Music, written in six hours on a visit to London in 1936 as a memorial for King George V, shows Hindemith’s ability to summon up a masterpiece to order. Dmitri Jakubovsky’s solo viola playing is eloquent, the recording rather gruff. George Hall