Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15/Ormandy

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 8

This disc contains two of Eugene Ormandy’s finest recorded performances for RCA, and significantly he recorded neither of these pieces for CBS/Sony. The Shostakovich is a magnificent rendition: on balance it remains the best played on disc–a fresh, unsentimental, flowing performance with spectacularly characterful contributions from the woodwinds (scherzo!), percussion, and of course, the strings. You won’t find here the darkness of Sanderling’s intensely nihilistic version on Berlin Classics, but Ormandy’s lighter approach conveys more of the music’s sardonic humor, as well as the elegance of the dance music that tends to break out even in the finale. Ormandy’s RCA recordings of the last three Shostakovich symphonies were all excellent (they came in a box in the old days of LPs), but this was the best of all.

Bartók’s Four Pieces for Orchestra had practically no exposure on disc in 1969 when this recording was released, and they’ve had very little since. Boulez on Sony is the main competition in this evocative work, one that gets almost no attention in concert, probably because it ends quietly with a gnarly funeral march. Once again the performance is magnificent. While Ormandy offers plenty of bite in the malicious second-movement scherzo, it’s the luscious Preludio, with its windswept harps and horns, and the impressionistic Intermezzo that make the strongest impression. Sonically this is also one of the best of the Japanese RCA Ormandy reissues–good, clear stereo that has held up well. Essential.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Both works: This One, Shostakovich: Sanderling (Berlin Classics)

BÉLA BARTÓK - Four Pieces for Orchestra

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