This new Naxos series of Shostakovich is turning out to be very exciting. Naxos has released five volumes with more on the way. They are all getting good reviews. I’ve heard the First Symphony — it’s superb. And now this 10th, one for the ages and comparable with the very best.
The RLPO’s young Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko has made a huge impact on the musical life of Merseyside. As principal conductor for the past six years (and contracted ’till 2015), he has led them in highly regarded performances at the orchestra’s home, Philharmonic Hall, an amazing Albert Hall BBC Prom last year with a blazing Manfred, and recording on both Naxos and DG (Hilary Hahn’s superb Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with equally wonderful accompaniment from Petrenko and the RLPO).
He has trained a good provincial orchestra into playing out of its boots. It’s not just the technical, but the musical, too. The phrasing in this 10th is exquisite, the ensemble is very fine, and the musicality heartbreaking. So many examples. The crazy Scherzo demonstrating equally crazy string section ensemble, woodwind solos galore that ache in intensity while played with grace and flawless intonation, and not forgetting the very powerful brass and percussion.
Petrenko makes me think anew about phrasing — listen to the accents and staccatos in the woodwinds at the opening of the third movement. The solo lines of the fourth movement’s introduction. Incisive strings heard by me for the first time in an already busy and orchestrally complicated scherzo.
Can you purchase the Petrenko and not feel badly that you didn’t get Karajan’s seminal 1st or even better 2nd recording? Yes. It’s that good. And for less than 10 bucks!
I remember a buddy of mine telling me how Svetlanov lectured the LPO for half the rehearsal on how to play Russian music. In the Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky I’ve heard Petrenko conduct, maybe there is some truth in the maxim of conductors and the special relationship with composers of their own country. He certainly has some wonderful gifts to offer us in his countryman’s music.
And, if there a few audiophiles reading, yes, this brilliant reading of the 20th Century’s greatest symphony gets an equally amazing recording. Messrs. Walton and Rowlands capture the ‘Phil’ acoustics beautifully. The recording is tight as a drum — more controlled than strictured. It lets the listener hear the solos in a beautiful space and allows all the musicians to display the complete control that Petrenko elicits from his wonderful orchestra.