x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

RLPO/Petrenko: Shosatakovich, Symphony No 8

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic's performance of Shostakovich's 8th Symphony is an excellent recording of one of the 20th century's great composers.

AD201010705189982AR
AD201010705189982AR

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic strikes again with this impassioned recording of Shostakovich's famously expansive Eighth Symphony. Three have gone before (his Fifth, Ninth and Eleventh) in this series of recordings of the Russian composer's work for Naxos, which has attracted a significant following. Here we have what is perhaps his most sombre and violent work - all thunderous climaxes and eerily quiet fade-outs - which was written as war raged between the Soviet Union and Germany. Such was its gloominess that, though it premiered in 1943, it was seen as unsuitable propaganda for the time and banned until 1956. Listening to this very Russian-sounding version with the great Vasily Petrenko at the helm, one can understand why people experiencing the hardship of war and Stalin might not want to wallow in its misery, choosing instead to listen to something a little easier on the ear. Later audiences, though, have come around to what they see as its great intellectual depth, perhaps due to its unorthodox structure and tonally ambiguous ending. The RLPO manfully handle its ebbs and flows, which are sudden and unpredictable, and the mammoth opening movement is treated, thanks to Petrenko's innate understanding of characterisation, with just the right balance of strength and poignancy. It may not be an easy piece to listen to, but in this version the RLPO continues its excellent work of recording one of the twentieth century's great composers.