Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 - Berglund

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 - Berglund

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186084

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8

Russian National Orchestra
Paavo Berglund (conductor)

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DSD recording

Recorded in June 2005 at DZZ Studio 5, Moscow, Russia

Recording producer: Job Maarse

Recording producers: Sergei Markov & Rick Walker

Executive producer: Job Maarse

Balance engineer: Erdo Groot

Recording engineer: Roger de Schot

Editing: Matthijs Ruijter, Ientje Mooij

Recording equipment: Neumann microphones KM 130, DPA 4006 & DPA 4011 with Polyhymnia microphone buffer electronics; microphone pre-amps custom build by Polyhymnia International BV and outputs directly connected to Meitner DSD AD converter; Pyramix Virtual Studio by Merging Technologies for DSD recording, editing and mixing; Monitored on Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers; microphone, interconnect and loudspeaker cables by van den Hul
Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - August 15, 2006

As noted in my review of the LSO Live disc:Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 - Rostropovich, this is a very different reading despite the superficially similar timings.

In the opening movement, Berglund & the RNO manage what others often do not - namely to convince the listener of the structure and the emotional narrative of the work. Whilst the LSO disc sounds episodic, this is a thoroughly well managed and cohesive account of this large (27 minute) and harrowing score. Berglund and his players clearly understand the score and communicate this understanding far better than almost anyone I've heard, both on the small and large scale.

Again, in the Allegretto, whilst the response of the RNO is not quite as physical as some, they manage to keep the motoric rhythm going far better and one senses that a little is being kept in reserve for later climaxes - and so, in the third movement this proves to be the case. As in the first movement, the RNO & Berglund manage to deliver a vastly more contrasting and yet cohesive story than Rostropovich and the LSO. [There are also no time keeping or tuning problems either.]

The Allegro non troppo is gripping and all the players sound completely committed. The ensemble in this virtuoso movement is outstanding, with amazing co-ordination between the string sections as well as the brass & woodwinds. Here the ostinato string quavers are phrased and given direction - in the LSO Live disc, it sounds like the players are worn out by this stage and all they can muster is the notes and nothing more.

After the collapse of the Allegro non troppo, the way Berglund paces the Largo and the RNO respond with their careful and musical phrasing, one can audibly identify the passacaglia-like structure and this allows for an emotional response that completely elludes Rostropovich and the LSO. The movement is neatly dovetailed into the fugal Allegretto finale and is made to sound as an organic part of the score rather than an oddity tacked on, to which some conductors reduce this movement. The symphony finishes with an oddly satisfying feeling of being unsettled, surely just as Shostakovich intended.

As ever, the Pentatone recording is first rate with crystal clear sound and the placing of the instruments easy to identify, even with such large forces. The dynamic range is also wide with compelling contrasts as performed here by the RNO although the crescendi do not sound quite so visceral as on LSO Live because of the cleaner sound.

In short, this shattering music receives the playing it fully deserves here from Berglund and the RNO. This RNO focused series from Pentatone is fast turning into the most exciting cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies to be put down on disc and is easily the best recorded.

Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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