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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Festive Overture (1954) [6.17]
Symphony No. 10 (1954) [52.23]
Helsinki PO/James DePreist
19-20 April 1990, Hyvinkää Hall, Hyvinkää, Finland DDD
DELOS DE 3089 [54.32]



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Two works from the year after Stalin's death.

The overture is picaresque, restless and sparkling and not terribly subtle (Shostakovich adds a full brass band for good measure); everything it was meant to be. It is a Soviet equivalent of Bernstein's Candide Overture. Closer to home it relates to Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon and, no doubt, a whole unknown phalanx of other Soviet concert overtures. Its darting and dissolute energy refers forward to the dashing wind writing in the Second Piano Concerto.

Contrast the overture with the symphony. We exchange virtuosic clowning and showmanship for a scorching and grim work where victory is pyrrhic, annealed with fire and ice, seared with acid and laced with tragic loss. There is some playfulness but it is of a macabre sort - hop-scotch in the graveyard rather than in sunny highlands.

Just as with DePreist's rightly praised recording of the Eleventh this recording is a good one. I liked the steady-sturdy pacing although I could have done with more from the sub-stratum of hysteria. Tension is well put across. The weight of the string sound is questionable and this surely has more to do with the Helsinki numbers. If you compare a more 'primitive' recording such as CBS-Sony's of the Fourth Symphony (Philadelphia/Ormandy) you will see what I mean. The Leningraders under Mravinsky are much closer to the hazardous crux - try virtually any of their various recordings. The ones on BMG-Melodiya or Praga are good examples. Amelia Haygood's team struck a naturalistic balance rather than grabbing for dramatic effect. I am not sure that this is quite the classic version claimed by some but it is good.

DePreist, a conductor of patent integrity, directs fine versions of these works. He is recorded in natural sound. His part cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies can be heard across two labels: Finlandia and Ondine.

Rob Barnett



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