One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider
  • Brahms Symphony 4 Dvorak Symphony 9
  • Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano
  • IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra
  • Sinfonie Concertanti
  • IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra
  • Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano


Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No. 5 (1937)
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester/Krzysztof Urbański
rec. 2017, Großer Saal, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
ALPHA 427 [46.16]

This is Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański’s fifth album with NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester on the Alpha label. In the 2015/16 season Urbański became principal guest conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra then named NDR Sinfonieorchester; changing to its present name in 2016 when it took up residence at the newly opened Elbphilharmonie. Following albums of Lutosławski, Dvořák, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky, Urbański and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester have now turned their attention to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, a twentieth-century masterpiece.

There can’t be too many classical music lovers unaware that Shostakovich agreed to his Fifth Symphony being titled ‘A Soviet Artist’s Response to Just Criticism’. In 1934 Soviet leader Josef Stalin attended a performance of Shostakovich’s ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ and was appalled by the opera’s content. Two days later Soviet state newspaper Pravda ran a condemnatory editorial titled ‘Muddle Instead of Music’ denouncing and banning the opera and placing Shostakovich in a disturbing state of dishonour. To hopefully rehabilitate himself with the Soviet Authorities Shostakovich completed his Fifth Symphony, a score more openly conservative in style, and its premičre in 1937 at Leningrad was a triumph. After Shostakovich’s new and frightening denunciation in 1948 it was Kurt Sanderling who conducted the first revival of the work.

With Urbański at the helm in the opening Moderato movement, striking is the brilliantly rich and voluminous sound that comes through the cellos and double basses. With playing of cool, stark beauty overall the emotional effect Urbański creates is one of agonising bleakness with a nail-biting tension. I relish the central section so impressively built, erupting at point 10.06 and sustaining plenty of raw power. At 12.50 the concluding passage of relative calm with its undertow of tension provides a modicum of welcome relief. Infused with nervous energy the brief Scherzo swirling and light-headed, often equated to communicating the spirit of Mahler, contains a sardonic waltz with a forced, tongue-in-cheek quality. Despite what has gone before in Urbański’s hands shafts of light are certainly shining meaningfully through the murk. Scored without brass the agonising Largo under Urbański projects emotional vulnerability, deep despair and intense introspection. Here Urbański creates the chilling scene of an intensely desolate landscape laid to waste. At point 7.00 a dramatic passage is begun gently by the flute and taken up by the strings. The writing gradually develops in power before falling away at 10.55 leaving behind a strange feeling of anxiety and disorientation. It’s hard not to praise the orchestra enough in this movement. In the Finale I love the way the brass and woodwind swiftly leap up from their slumber with martial-like passages full of swagger, vigour and stirring drama. Matching the raw power of Kurt Sanderling and his Berlin players, Urbański astutely develops an urgent and energetically driven forward momentum. The percussion at 3.17-3.24 feels like a ferocious barrage of rifles and canons. A shiver runs down the spine as the music rushes impetuously to an awe-inspiring conclusion of outward triumph, magnificently from 8.47 to the conclusion. More than a match for most under Urbański, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester give a performance that feels totally sincere with quite marvellous sound. This is a thrilling performance of both physical impact and deep emotional intensity. Recorded at Großer Saal, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg the sound quality is clear and well balanced. I did detect very slight reverberation but nothing that concerned me. A booklet essay written by Urbański provides an insightful
view of the Fifth Symphony.

There are several outstanding accounts of Shostakovich’s extremely popular Fifth Symphony in the catalogue. My leading recommendation is the 1982 Christuskirche, Berlin account from Kurt Sanderling with the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester for its depth, power and overwhelming emotion. Reissued on Berlin Classics the recording has been remastered from the original Eterna master tapes (review). Recommendable too for its consistency and considerable insights is Rudolf Barshai with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln recorded in 1996 on Brilliant Classics. Standing comparison with the finest accounts Krzysztof Urbański presides over a thrilling performance from NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester of both physical impact and deep emotional intensity.
 
Michael Cookson

 




Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


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
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger