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Darkly brooding

Shostakovich's Sixth
and Tenth Symphonies -

'... a thoughtful and carefully prepared account, beautifully played and recorded.'

Shostakovich: Symphonies No 6 and No 10. (p) 2001 Delos International Inc


There is no shortage of recordings of Shostakovich's symphonic output, the majority of them highly regarded by critics. One gets the impression that most will fill the listener's need very nicely. Personally, however, I do not find this to be so. I am particularly conscious with this composer, that one's reaction to a particular performance is always a very subjective one, in that it depends very much on what the individual reads into the cryptic subtext that underlies the true intention of each work. Even the composer's own pronouncements on this, where they exist, must often be taken with a pinch of salt, as they come from within a regime where free speech was not an option.

Take, for example, the popular Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich's avowed 'answer to just criticism'. It can be played as just that: safe, ultimately affirmative music of the people; the dark struggle of life rewarded by the blazing sunlight of socialism. Or is it rather, a dark, frustrated and pessimistic submission to a repressive regime, culminating in a covert two finger salute to it? These very different concepts require very different musical interpretations, and one man's meat is another man's poison.

The Sixth Symphony is a particularly puzzling work. The opening Largo [listen -- CD2 track 1, 2:45-3:43], darkly brooding and serious, but lit with moments of great beauty, especially in the wind solos, is one of the composer's finest creations. He has something profound to say.

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Copyright © 16 December 2001 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK







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