One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

 

BUY NOW 

AmazonUK  

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No. 8 (1943) [53:05]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Oleg Caetani
Live recording: Auditorium di Milano, Italy, October 2004. DDD. SACD
ARTS 47704-8 [53:05]

 

This SACD release brings Oleg Caetani's cycle of Shostakovich symphonies with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi to just past the half-way point.  The previous releases in this series have been received with acclaim in some quarters, but not in these pages (see these reviews: review1, review2 and review3).  Accordingly, I approached this disc expecting either revelation or disappointment.  Unfortunately, I experienced the latter.

The problems with this performance are immediately apparent in the first movement and all stem from a poor choice of tempi.  There is certainly nothing wrong with making bold decisions about tempi - indeed, if idiomatically handled, a different approach can prove revelatory.  The problem here, though, is that by choosing tempi that are consistently quick, Caetani inevitably glosses over the rhetoric of Shostakovich's musical argument and forfeits its grim atmosphere.  The transitions - which are very hard to bring off in the first movement of this symphony, perhaps more so than any in other first movement Shostakovich wrote - are also affected by hurried tempi, and become clunky.  The orchestra struggles with the pace.  The notes are all there, but there is an unsteadiness to the wind and brass and a rasping to the string tone that is quite unattractive.  Not that the full gloss of Haitink's performance is mandatory, but any roughness or edge to the playing should be deliberate, rather than mere poor execution.

Track timings do not convey the whole picture, but here they are illustrative.  I thought it worth making the comparison to my benchmark recording: Järvi with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on Chandos.  To be fair to Caetani's live performance, I also cross-checked his new disc against a couple of recent live accounts in my collection: Jansons' reading on EMI and Barshai's on Brilliant Classics.  In comparison to all three of these recordings, Caetani's emerges as the fastest and the worst played.  He speeds through the first movement in 20:36, as compared the Järvi's 26:27 and Barshai's 27:27.  Even the “swift” Jansons weighs in at 24:29, a good four minutes longer.  Caetani's fourth movement is, at 7:40, more of an adagio than a largo.  All three of the comparison recordings listed above take around ten minutes.  Caetani's quick tempi rob the final movement of its stunned pathos.  Only in the central allegro non troppo is Järvi is marginally quicker, and the ensemble of his orchestra is much more cohesive. 

Not all is bad.  There are certainly some moments that come off very well.  The big climaxes in the first and last movements sound terrifying, and here the DSD recording comes into its own.  Overall, however, not even the sonics can save this release.

In this, the composer's centenary year, EMI will complete its cycle with Jansons and Philips will edge closer to completing its cycle with Gergiev.  What brings this series into competition and may give it an edge over those august rivals is the fact that it is being recorded in SACD sound.  But the performance here is nowhere near as good as the sound.  And of course there are other SACD versions available - for example the review of Kitajenko's recent outing -  and doubtless there will be more as the technology catches on.  I cannot really recommend this disc to anyone, which is a pity. 

Tim Perry

 

 

 

 



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical

alpha_classics.com
Alpha Classics
a new advertiser

 

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Arcodiva
Atoll 10% off
CDAccord
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Hortus
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sheva £2 off
Sheva Contemporary
Sterling 10% off
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.