mixed account here, that starts promisingly and then fails to
live up to that promise. The recording is fine – the percussion-driven
climaxes that characterise this work come across well – but
one hankers for that bit more, an extra that an SACD incarnation
would surely provide.
Beethoven Orchester Bonn is a fine orchestra, but perhaps not
a world-class one. Much of the time there is much evidence of
careful rehearsal and a real sense of united effort. Yet it
seems the orchestra cannot abandon itself to Shostakovich's
large-scale canvas, stuck, frequently, in the moment.
account begins well, with a shifting sense of unease that is
entirely appropriate. The music unfolds ominously and darkly
and the strings can carry long, unaccompanied unison lines well.
There is even a sense of manic intensity, highlighting the arrival
of the distorted march at around 16'40 in the first movement.
The famous cor anglais solo is marvellously plaintive, almost
like a cry in post-nuclear fallout.
second movement illustrates this reading’s failings. Fairly
incisive, it remains without great internal drive and smoothes
over, to a great extent, the grotesque. In fact it is fair to
say that there is a certain stiffness – born perhaps of lack
of sympathy with this repertoire – that is confirmed in the
Allegro non troppo third movement. Not particularly motoric,
the major failing is that the punctuating chords sound careful
for the microphones. Listen out, though, for the excellent trumpet
playing at around 3'50 in.
fourth movement Passacaglia returns to the feeling of unease
that began this symphony, here within an atmosphere that strives
towards the peaceful. A shame that the moment of C major arrival
at the outset of the finale lacks the requisite luminous qualities.
Throughout this movement there is a tangible sense of going
through the motions – even the crushing dissonances are only
shame, then. A somewhat flowery booklet nevertheless includes
all salient information.