Nelsons’ Shostakovich Continues With Gusto

Review by: David Hurwitz

Shost7

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Not many conductors get the opportunity to record the “Leningrad” Symphony twice. Bernstein did it, and now so does Andris Nelsons. He has a genuine feeling for the work, especially the controversial first movement, which he paces ideally–a relatively swift opening, no dawdling through the reflective music before the central march episode– a huge and nasty buildup of trashiness and mayhem–and, once again, a coda that seems not to take forever. Beautiful playing from the BSO provides the icing on the cake.

The symphony’s other tricky bit, or rather chunk, is the Adagio, which is just as repetitious in its way as the first movement, particularly its verrrrrrry slllllooooowwwww concluding descent into darkness. Once again Nelsons and the BSO manage to keep you listening, and the finale is smooth sailing. The bombastic closing pages sound more like a gloss on Stravinsky’s Firebird than usual, but that’s not a bad thing by any measure. This really is as fine a performance as any, and I like the clear, lean engineering.

The Sixth Symphony was included in DG’s BSO box–another excellent version, as I said in that review, full of color and energy, with the elegiac opening movement given plenty of weight without dragging. I’ve never much cottoned to the “King Lear” incidental music–it’s pretty dry and uninteresting, but the Festive Overture is a blast that both conductor and orchestra have a great time playing. A very fine release, then, and if you’re collecting this series, go for it.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Symphony No. 6: Berglund (EMI/Warner); Symphony No. 7: Bernstein (DG)


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