Symphony no 8 in C minor op 65
Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Andrew
Recorded in the Eugene McDermott Hall, Dallas, in January 1996
It is hard to understand why Shostakovich's Eighth was neglected for so many
years after its first performance in 1943. 'I believe it is one of the greatest
20th century works', says Andrew Litton, and I agree with him. No one surpassed
Shostakovich in the portrayal of raw emotion or in making a powerful personal
statement in a symphony. If the predominant mood is one of bleakness punctuated
by outbursts of savagery that is hardly surprising, given the date of its
composition. Whereas the more popular Seventh Symphony portrayed the destructive
power of fascist hordes, the Eighth is about the suffering which war brings,
a message it conveys with painful clarity. The work is also wonderfully
structured: there's nothing else quite like the passacaglia which
lies at its centre.
This is a superb recording. In the long first movement Litton builds the
tension with sure judgement and the two big climaxes are shattering. The
dénouement which follows is notable for a lovely cor anglais solo.
The demented shrieking of the woodwind in the allegretto is electrifying
as are the relentless motor rhythms of the allegro non troppo (unlike
some conductors, Litton scrupulously respects the non troppo instruction).
The passacaglia is heart-achingly bleak and the mood of resignation
with which the symphony ends is beautifully captured.
On this form it's clear that the Dallas orchestra can compete with the USA's
'big five': a splendid corporate sound, virtuoso soloists and an especially
vibrant horn section. The recording is vivid, clear and spacious. Highly