Muti Smokes in Babi Yar

Review by: David Hurwitz

Shostakovich13

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 8

This is a great performance of Shostakovich’s grimly epic Thirteenth Symphony, a work that Muti has championed for many years. Everyone involved is in top form: orchestra, male choir, and the excellent bass soloist Alexey Tikhomirov, who sings with great conviction and a firm tone throughout his range. In general, Muti sets deliberate tempos throughout. The opening movement, “Babi Yar,” is as dark and gripping as it is relentless, the tolling bell and plodding bass lines perfectly touched in, while the climaxes are positively terrifying. Even “Humor,” the work’s scherzo, proceeds with at a more measured pace than usual, as if dreading the nightmare to come, but it all works.

In the latter three movements, Muti avoids monotony by paying special attention to Shostakovich’s atmospheric orchestration: the coloristic chords on the piano, the rolls of the bass drum and soft beats on the tam-tam, and in the conclusion, “A Career,” an unusually expressive phrasing of its lullaby main theme. Along the way, the men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus sing with all the necessary weight and, where required, sensitivity. The engineering is somewhat dry and perhaps a bit shy in the bass as a result, but extremely clear; and it suits the interpretation very well.

There are very few versions of this symphony where absolutely everything can be said to “go right,” but this is certainly one of them. It’s also good to see CSO Resound releasing something other than the same old guys playing the same old stuff.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Haitink (Decca); Barshai (Brilliant Classics)


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