Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15/Ormandy

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 9

Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra gave the American premiere of Shostakovich’s valedictory symphony in 1972, followed by its first recording outside the Soviet Union. Collectors may remember its shrill, emasculated sonics, due in part to those notorious matzoh-like dynaflex LP pressings that made RCA infamous in the 1970s. Appearing now for the first time on CD in RCA’s High Performance series, the Ormandy Shostakovich 15th blooms with vivacity and life, filling the room with the fabled Philadelphia sound. And what a gorgeous, beautifully played, transparent performance it is! Ormandy’s own annotations explain the opening movement’s quirky hi-jinks as analogous to a toy shop at night, when all the merchandise comes to playful life, hence the much commented upon quotation from Rossini’s William Tell. The stark Wagnerian allusions in the final movement create an ominous context for the painfully expressive chaconne that follows. Filling out the disc is Emil Gilels’ tightly-coiled, assured 1965 recording of the Second Sonata, which brings out the work’s orchestral profile, in contrast to Maria Yudina’s more subjective, pianistically oriented approach. Let’s hope RCA follows through with Ormandy’s Shostakovich 13th and 14th Symphonies, long overdue on CD. A major release. [2/10/2000]

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Recording Details:

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH - Symphony No. 15; Piano Sonata No. 2

  • RCA - 63587 2
  • CD

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