Review by Jonalogic July 14, 2010 (8 of 9 found this review helpful)
|I deeply love the Shostakovich symphonies; it is, therefore, a source of great pleasure that they are so well represented on SACD.
I have always had a soft spot for number 11. Based on the abortive ‘Little Revolution’ of 1905, this is real wide-screen, technicolor programme music. In actuality, it’s great film music, without the unnecessary bother of having a film attached…
My touchstone for this music is the great, late-analogue era Berglund performance with the Bournemouth Symphony on EMI. It’s an astonishingly deeply-felt reading, graced by a truly great recording, one of the finest – in my opinion - ever committed to analogue tape. I would dearly love it to appear on SACD, I am sure it would still amaze (if the corporate apparatchiks in charge of EMI this week ever managed to pull their fingers out of their bottom lines and allow some of their classic back-archive material onto SACD).
But what we’ll consider here are three readings:
1) The Wigglesworth/Netherlands RPO on BIS
2) The Lazarev /RNSO on Linn
3) The Russian NSO/Pletnev on Pentatone
I have also the Kitayenko/Cologne on Capriccio, but have not yet got round to playing this; I will update this critique when I have done so.
Incidentally, all were auditioned in stereo, on my reference high end Esoteric/Goldmund/Martin-Logan system. I’m still a sceptic on matters multi-channel, I’m afraid...
In my opinion, one of the three recordings is a good all-rounder, but two have a significant flaw. So, how does each of the three stack up?
1) The Wigglesworth. A good example of BIS's high quality SACD house sound. Neutral, transparent and with staggering (almost too much so!) dynamic range. The battery of percussion which closes the second movement will melt speakers, whilst much of the first movement is whisper-quite and deeply atmospheric. Wiggelsworth clearly understands this music, the performance is deeply felt, sincere, and graced with fine playing. Sonically and interpretationally, it all rather spookily reminds me of my reference Berglund recording- that’s no bad thing!
2) The Lazarev. This has excellent sound from Linn, an atmospheric first movement, explosive second movement and dynamic finale. However… the third movement is simply mis-judged in my opinion; marked ‘in memoriam’ this is a threnody for fallen martyrs of the revolution. Quite simply, it should not skip along at the speed set by Lazarev; by contrast, both Wigglesworth and Pletnev get this third movement spot on, measured, dignified and grief-stricken.
3) The Pletnev. This is probably the best, and most idiomatic all-round performance. The last movement, in particular, is faster and more excitrng than most. But it’s also matched with the poorest overall sound. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely transparent and has a seamless mid-range and liquid treble. It’s weak point- as often evidenced on Polyhymnia recordings – is its absence of underpinning bass foundation. This lack of slam and bass foundation severely constrains the impact of episodes where Shostakovich lets rip and simply throws the kitchen sink into the orchestration. These ‘wipe-out’ moments simply underwhelm in the resulting thin balance. The balance is also erratic at times – note the almost absent snare drum in the second movement, suddenly leaping to the front of the mix as the massacre episode takes off. A real pity
So there we have it. My recommendation as an all-rounder is the Wigglesworth on BIS. I can’t live with Lazarev’s third movement tempo, and the sound for Pletnev is not up to the standard of the other two recordings.
Will the Kitayenko on Capriccio steal its crown? Wait and see.
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