Friday 5 June 2015

Shostakovich: Symphony No.7 - Music Web International

"There need be no reservations as to the quality of the performance and interpretation; this is now a leading choice for the ‘Leningrad’."

Our latest Shostakovich release 'Shostakovich - Symphony No.7' with Paavo Järvi and Russian National Orchestra seems to attract the attention of various reviewers on Music Web International. Here you can read the favorable words from two of Music Web International reviewers John Quinn and Dave Billinge.

This is a very fine account of the ‘Leningrad’. It seems to me that Paavo Järvi has completely got the measure of the score and throughout the seventy-minute span of the work I was consistently convinced by what I heard. It helps that in realising his conception of the symphony he’s supported by a very fine orchestra indeed. In reviewing the recording as a download my colleague, Dan Morgan was most complimentary about the PENTATONE sound. I am in complete agreement with Dan’s enthusiasm for the performance per se and in many respects I concur also with his view of the sound. There’s a very good left-to-right spread; the brass and percussion register imperiously, without appearing domineering; the many vast climaxes open up splendidly and there’s a very wide dynamic range. However, I do have a reservation, namely that the bass end of the string choir often doesn’t register with sufficient power and presence. In a Shostakovich symphony you need an ultra-firm foundation from the double basses with the cellos adding their weight too. Here I don’t get enough of that foundation for much of the time though one exception, happily, is at the start of the funeral-march episode in the finale. I’m very conscious indeed that recordings sound different on particular systems so it’s essential that intending purchasers read Dan’s comments about the sound as well as mine. I’m very conscious indeed that recordings sound different on particular systems so it’s essential that intending purchasers read Dan’s comments about the sound as well as mine. Read more...

John Quinn

We have had nearly 75 years to get over the fact that this dramatic and colourful symphony has a gigantic purple passage in the first movement, a passage that rivals Ravel's Bolero in its ability to hypnotise the listener, and that the work goes on to end with a remarkably positive finale which sits uneasily in a commemoration of the siege of Leningrad. Paavo Järvi treats this work, as he seems to treat everything he does these days, as a wholly worthwhile use of your time. Despite the huge number of alternative recordings this goes right up into the first division on grounds of interpretative coherence, playing and recording. Järvi's opening tempo is brisk, making the rapid slowdown to a more pensive mood more noticeable. This is just the first of many examples of interventions which emphasise the dramatic contrasts. The lovely solo violin passage drops away to a whisper just before the quietest of side-drum entries draws one into the next stage. The long crescendo is given emphatic rhythmic drive by the basses — placed tellingly behind the first violins and cellos on the left of the soundstage. By the time Shostakovich's filmic music has reached its climax the effect has become very disturbing — exactly as it should be. The slow and quiet coda comes as much needed balm to the ears. The moderato second movement has a gentle lilting rhythm but the undercurrent is appropriately pensive. The string groups are beautifully delineated in this detailed recording and I found myself focusing more intently than usual on this part of the symphony. The raucous woodwind and brass trio section is strikingly angular completing as fine a performance of this movement as I've heard. The Adagio also benefits from the clarity of both Järvi's conducting and the engineers' attention to detail. The movement is emotionally complex. So intense is the performance I wonder if it was the product of a single take, though that seems unlikely in this age of multiple edits. In the Allegro Finale I thought the rear channels were too prominent but the front stage picture was not disturbed. Much of the first part of this movement has a sense of something emerging. It is, in true symphonic manner, a preparation for what is to come, parts are being assembled. Järvi keeps a strong line through to the massive celebratory coda so that the end is extremely impressive. Read more...

Dave Billinge