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On CD: Shostakovich 8th

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8. Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra [Naxos].
By Mark J. Estren

Vasily Petrenko continues his Shostakovich cycle with the 8th (available from

With the third CD in his Shostakovich cycle for Naxos, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko establishes himself in the front rank of interpreters of this music. Getting the Liverpudlians’ lower strings to growl with Russian depth and menace is impressive enough. Bringing tremendous drama and vitality to a symphony that can easily degenerate into bombast is more impressive still.

Shostakovich’s second wartime symphony, written a year and a half after No. 7 (“Leningrad”), is huge, conflict-filled but ultimately affirmative. It is also complex both structurally and in its frequent mood shifts.
(read more after the jump)

Petrenko takes the full measure of the music, starting with an intense opening of the first movement and progressing to an Allegretto that is rude and crude but proffers elegance in the high winds. The third movement here may be the best ever recorded: Raucous to the point of vulgarity, it is a nonstop clatter of screeching winds, pounding timpani and cutting trumpets atop snare-drum exclamations.

The contrast with the following Largo – Shostakovich’s first orchestral passacaglia – could not be greater: This movement is sweet, restrained and very moving. Then the whimsical bassoon and soaring strings of the finale become integral parts of a movement that can be overwhelming in its sheer loudness (the CD’s sound is unusually clear and bright) but that has something ineffable about its quiet coda.

This is, in all, a remarkably effective performance – at least on a par with Petrenko’s prior Naxos recordings of Symphony No. 11 and Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9. Petrenko, at 34, is delving into his Russian heritage to superb effect.

--Mark J. Estren

By Anne Midgette  |  May 27, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  CD reviews  
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Petrenko is a conductor we need to see in Washington - or have him return to Baltimore. Alas, I need to drive to Philly to hear him in the next season...

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | May 27, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Agree. However, Kirill Karabits is an equally exciting younger conductor who we WILL see in Washington next January 2011. We won't need to drive to Philly or Baltimore to see him next season...

Like Petrenko, and equally intellectual and committed to arts education and free access to classical music by the young, Kirill Karabits is now the conductor of a significant British orchestra, after previously serving with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

Posted by: snaketime1 | May 27, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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