Review by Jonalogic July 15, 2010 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
|This is an intriguing and thoroughly recommendable coupling of two very different Shostakovich symphonies.
The 9th is a small (but definitely not minor) masterpiece; the 12th is, despite Wigglesworth's earnest defence and reading of the piece, a piece of hackwork - the sort of thing Shostakovich had to resort to from time to time, when things got rough, to placate Stalin and his court philistines.
The 9th almost got Shostakovich in deep water; composed just after the war, and following the epic 8th and 9th symphonies, the apparat expected a like-minded, vast, noisy paean to victory in the Great Patriotic War. Instead, they received this short, lightweight Haydn-esque symphony. And, this being Shostakovich, the ambiguity and anguish behind the forced gaiety of the last movement is not difficult to discern. This was risky stuff; however, Shostakovich got away with it, and for the usual reason; the officials were too stupid to recognise the ambiguity, or simply found it more convenient to accept the shiny, happy facade and ignore the darker depths of the symphony.
Wigglesworth gets this double-meaning just right; this is a near perfect and superbly played performance- one of the very best 9ths I have heard- and I have heard quite a few, live and recorded. The grimace and tears behind the high jinks are not rammed down our throats, but they cannot be ignored. We will flog you until you dance...
And what are we to make of the 12th? I feel Shostakovich may have been telling us something by writing his weakest symphony for the 'successful' 1917 Revolution; by contrast, his take on the failed 1905 Little Revolution produced incomparably greater music. Go, figure. This shouldn't take too much brainpower, though...
As with this entire cycle, Wigglesworth's reading is direct, considered and thoughtful. However, it cannot hide the vacuum behind the bombast.
Like his previous Shostakovich recordings on BIS, the sound on both these symphonies is simply stunning; transparent, vivid and explosive. Well done, BIS engineers!
And now a surreal aside for you. Notice how the main motif of the first movement of the 12th, which returns at the end of the finale (at around 110 decibels) is based on the great Goodies rendition of 'I have a ferret sticking up my nose'. Yes, really. Nice post-modern irony, Dmitrij Dmitrievic ! And who would have thought that repeats of 'the Goodies' were available on State TV?
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