Shostakovich: Symphonies 4 & 10 - Pletnev

Shostakovich: Symphonies 4 & 10 - Pletnev

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186647 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Shostakovich: Symphonies 4 & 10

Russian National Orchestra
Mikhail Pletnev (conductor)

Fear, Loathing and Redemption in the Troubled Symphonies of Shostakovich

The spirit of Gustav Mahler looms over the pages of Shostakovich’s turbulent, sprawling and enigmatic Symphony No. 4, a work so uncompromising that for many years he suppressed its performance, fearing public censure. Mixing bombast with banality, savagery with sarcasm, this baffling yet profound work is also one of his most startlingly original. It’s paired with his ever popular Symphony No. 10, a brooding and lyrical masterpiece which is said to contain a musical portrait of Joseph Stalin in the impetuous second movement and in whose third and fourth movements Shostakovich artfully weaves a musical motif based on his own name which emerges resplendent in the spirited finale.

This triumphant release (under the baton of Mikhail Pletnev) is the latest in a series of recordings for PENTATONE by the Russian National Orchestra. Their Shostakovich cycle (also on PENTATONE) was widely acclaimed as “the most exciting cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies to be put down on disc, and easily the best recorded.” ( The Symphony No. 7, conducted Paavo Järvi, won the Diapason d’Or de l’année 2015 and was nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award for Best Surround Sound recording.

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8 of 10 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

DSD recording

Recorded 9-16 February, 2017 at the Philharmonia-2, Moscow, Russia

Executive producer: Renaud Loranger

Producer, balance engineer and editing: Erdo Groot (Polyhymnia International B.V.)

Recording and balance engineer: Jean-Marie Geijsen (Polyhymnia International B.V.)

Recording assistant: Pavel Lavinenkov
Comments (39)

Comment by fausto kantiano - June 25, 2018 (1 of 39)

Unsurprisingly, terrific performance and sound alike

Comment by hiredfox - July 29, 2018 (2 of 39)

It is difficult to articulate just how good these recordings are, we have the perfect storm of an orchestra and conductor at the very top of their form and Pentatone engineers and production team excelling. The result is quite possibly the best SACD to have been released in the high resolution area and arguably one of the greatest recordings of all time.

Pletnev built this orchestra from scratch, hand picking the members much in the manner of Ivan Fischer and 'his' Budapest Festival Orchestra players. They have performed together for over thirty years and have reached a peak of technical flawlessness and empathetic understanding that on the evidence of these performances conductor and orchestra are of one mind instinctively.

These are deeply thoughtful, emotionally sensitive interpretations with nigh perfect timing that make you believe that you are hearing these well known symphonies for the first time. The level of precision and timing of every individual player and each section is beyond magical. I am not holding back, to this listener these are the best ever performances of these two symphonies available on disc SACD or RBCD.

... but it takes more than a top class orchestra and an acclaimed maestro at his best to deliver what you hear on this outstanding SACD. Pentatone has (even in stereo) managed to capture every note, every nuance and every stage position with such unwavering precision and with such tonal accuracy that any lover of classical music will be left speechless. Those who argue that stereo cannot reproduce music in three dimensions very much need to think again. It suggest mch fans are also in for a treat.

Forget that you have at least five versions of these Symphonies in your collection and the "same old, same old" arguments, this is a tour-de-force and presented so beautifully that you may wonder why our beloved format is dying the death of a thousand cuts. Everyone associated with this recording deserves our heartfelt thanks and congratulations. This ought to be the future of recording not the past!

Few, including me hadn't realised SACD could be this good

Comment by William Hecht - July 29, 2018 (3 of 39)

OK, John, I need more Shosty like a hole in the head, but you got me, ordered today.

Comment by hiredfox - July 30, 2018 (4 of 39)

Hi Bill, I hope you will not be disappointed. It'll be interesting to hear your comments on the quality of the recording in mch especially as it is simply wonderful in Stereo.
Best wishes. John

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 31, 2018 (5 of 39)

Thanks to your glowing comments I just ordered this one.

Comment by hiredfox - August 1, 2018 (6 of 39)

Thank you for placing your trust in me, I hope you will not be let down. Sharing pleasures like this doubles the fun of our pastime, otherwise it can become a lonely pursuit.

Comment by Nagraboy - August 2, 2018 (7 of 39)

Think I'll be getting the 2ch DSD download after reading such praise! I did notice the bad reviews on Amazon though...somehow I doubt their veracity - how can the sound be bad with Pentatone running the show? I've not heard either of these symphonies before, being more of a Chamber/Baroque/Early music fan, so looking forward to an exciting listening session ahead with my Sony Signature Series Walkman, DAC and headphones. thanks for the tip John.


Comment by Jan Arell - August 5, 2018 (8 of 39)

Having read Hiredfox’s comment today I couldn’t resist. Ordered.

Comment by hiredfox - August 6, 2018 (9 of 39)

One can sense the pressure racking up. The 'Law of Averages' suggests that at least one of my colleagues will enjoy it... hopefully!

Comment by diw - August 9, 2018 (10 of 39)

Now I am curious to hear the opinion of those who ordered the disc in response to hirefox's comments. I have a lot of DS, so this disc has to be as good as stated (in MC) for me to want to get it.

Comment by William Hecht - August 9, 2018 (11 of 39)

Sorry I can't help. I don't have it yet, it's part of a larger order including "pre-orders" so I don't expect it for another couple of weeks.

Comment by Steven Harrison - August 12, 2018 (12 of 39)

I have this one now and have listened to both symphonies. I have all the others in the set and this one continues the fine sound. I'm not sure that this is the best sacd ever, as HF suggests, but it's very good and a worthy addition to anyone's collection.

Comment by Euell Neverno - August 12, 2018 (13 of 39)

Any thoughts regarding how these performances compare to the Andris Nelsons' recordings with the Boston Symphony on DG. Of course, those are only available in stereo on RBCD and download, but are well recorded.

Comment by hiredfox - August 17, 2018 (14 of 39)

The Boston's 10th has garnered some good reviews but alas is only available on CD or download. Sad really when you consider the good connections that Tom Caulfield (tailspn) had with the BSO, Sound Mirror & Channel and the wonderful recordings they made in the best format of all.

I guess Tom if you ever pass by this way these days, would it be worth worth trying to get all these people together again to relaunch a Boston SACD commitment (yes, we know all about the relative cost argument (excuses?). They might not sell many more recordings but for sure they would sell a few more to folk on here in addition to those who still buy RBCD.

Otherwise Euell, I'll never be able to answer your question as I have no intention whatsoever to regress to RBCD and its sonic horrors.

Comment by Euell Neverno - August 19, 2018 (15 of 39)

Poor reviews of the performances on this recording from both Gramophone and

Comment by hiredfox - August 20, 2018 (16 of 39)

Edward Seckerson eh? Say no more!

Comment by Scott A. - August 22, 2018 (17 of 39)

I've listened to it twice. I thought the sound was excellent, but it wasn't really put to good use as the interpretation is pretty dull and, to my mind, lacking punch. Then again, it's Shostakovich, so maybe I just don't know how these symphonies are supposed to go, but I think I'll stick to Wigglesworth on BIS for #4 and Paavo Jarvi on Telarc for #10. Nott on Exton for the 10th is pretty good, too.

In any event, you might want to try and hear some samples before you purchase, because this is surely not going to suit everyone's taste. Also, instead of a double jewel case, Pentatone have opted for one of those cardboard clamshell boxes. At least the inner jackets on this one are large enough to insert a poly sleeve for added protection, and that is a true rarity.

Comment by hiredfox - August 25, 2018 (18 of 39)

I'm not sure what you are expecting Scott, for example the 4th was composed at the time of the Stalin purges in 1936. After the very successful reception of his first three symphonies the 4th was banned from performance by the cultural committee. They were dark times in the USSR and the 4th was composed at a time when Shostakovitchr was in deep depression about the future and saw a future without hope. After the ban the composer realised he was no longer able to compose freely in style and felt he was a marked man who lived in constant psychological fear of ultimate retribution by the state, reflected in more up-beat, triumphant compositions that met state approval.

The 4th was eventually published in 1961 in more secure times. Even so the score was never changed and the published work is exactly as written and disapproved in 1936. Hence the 4th is bleak, without optmism or hope for the future. It is a dark work written in dark times in Soviet history.

The 10th was written in the summer of 1953 during or shortly after Stalin's death and premiered in that year so understandably it is a work written in the framework of the restrictions of the cultural authorities. It has become a conflicted work in that the composer later claimed that it was a more subtle criticism of the states oppression that a first hearing might not suggest. In my view Pletnev prefers the composer's hypothesis and that might not suit all tastes.

Comment by Aastroem - August 25, 2018 (19 of 39)

A very disappointing release. The first movement of no 4 is sluggish and dull.

Comment by fausto kantiano - August 25, 2018 (20 of 39)

I'm still of the opinion, after many listenings now, that this is a marvellous recording in sound and performance

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