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<<  -- 3 --  David Thompson    Darkly brooding


Litton's Tenth is, perhaps the most beautiful and elegant performance of the work I have heard. But that's the problem. Beauty and elegance are not, for me, the prerequisites of this dark work. It's not a late reworking of Tchaikovsky's Fifth. The emotions here have a much rawer edge to them. Shostakovich, when asked to hint at a programme, said that listeners must 'judge for themselves'. The work was written in 1953 after the death of Stalin, and the composer did let on that the second movement is a portrait of the man. The prominent use of the composer's DSCH musical signature in the third and fourth movements suggest that, perhaps the whole work is a portrait of himself as an artist who had known what it was to live under Stalin's repressive regime. Dark, harsh, frustrating years, mirrored in a predominantly dark work.

The first movement is played with great feeling and sensuous sounds, but it begins with too much calm and does not quite reach boiling point at its great climax [listen -- CD1 track 1, 12:21-13:20]. The 'Stalin' scherzo [listen -- CD1 track 2, 0:00-0:59] should be a devilish galop punctuated with crushing jackboots and the pounding of Soviet industry grinding the proletariat into submission; a thoroughly nasty movement that leaves nerves uncomfortably exposed, as it is in Karajan's hands, for example, and especially so in Haitink's, where the side-drummer and corporate brass have a whale of a time. Here, it sounds accurate, but almost polite.

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







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